Weekly Column: Investing in Infrastructure is an Investment in the Future
In 2017, with a new president in office and a reinvigorated Congress eager to get to work, finding ways to help grow our economy will be a top priority in Washington. For the first time in nearly a decade, we will have an executive branch willing to work with us to reform the tax code and undo many of the burdensome regulations that are preventing job creators from expanding their businesses. Additionally, we will have a president in office who has committed to investing in infrastructure across America, another important tool that is critical to our economy.
Infrastructure is defined as basic organizational structures that are needed for the operation of society. This includes roads, railways, electric grids, pipelines, water systems, bridges, ports and airports, among other things. There is an expectation among Americans that no matter where they are across the country, they can expect clean water when they turn on a faucet and safe roads and bridges when they travel from place to place.
A strong infrastructure system is important for public safety, and it has many economic benefits as well: it helps us maintain international competitiveness, creates jobs in construction and manufacturing industries and helps us make sure we are at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. A vibrant infrastructure system also strengthens national security: because we depend so heavily on travel and electricity to go about our daily lives, a breach in one of these systems could have far-reaching effects. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has identified 16 different critical structures whose assets, systems and networks are considered so vital to the U.S. that their destruction or disruption would have a “debilitating” effect on our nation.
Putting people to work may be a short-term positive effect when we break ground on new infrastructure projects, but any project in which we choose to invest taxpayer dollars must also grow the economy. It’s important that we don’t start new projects simply for the sake of starting projects—we need to be guaranteed a return on our investments.
Since the beginning of the Roman Empire, infrastructure has been a key component of prosperous, thriving nations. After the development of the aqueduct, for example, the ancient Romans were able to move water long distances, thus expanding their empire. The growth of the United States is directly tied to innovation and infrastructure development. In the 19th century, our country expanded to the west as travel became more accessible. People and products could be moved on new rail lines, roads and waterways. It increased our ability to trade with others, move people to new parts of our burgeoning country and, as 19th century journalist John O’Sullivan put it, spread the “great experiment of liberty” west to the Pacific Ocean.
Since the early days of our republic, our infrastructure system has played a vital role in the growth of our country and the strength of our economy. As we begin work in the 115th Congress, investing in infrastructure will be a top priority.