November 23, 2008

CAF's Research Director Eric Lotke discusses the "Investment Deficit" report.

On November 18th, the Campaign for America's Future, a progressive think-tank, launched a report that called for a massive investment to create jobs and restore America's neglected infrastructure. Now, President-Elect Obama has promised to deliver exactly that.

In launching their report, CAF authors Eric Lotke, Alex Carter, Brian Dockstader, Schuyler Beckwith and Molly Swartz wrote:

America is falling apart. Falling apart, and falling behind.

Previous generations of Americans built interstate highways and transcontinental railroads. Now we sit in traffic.

Americans from an earlier era pioneered universal primary education and chartered great universities on public land. They enacted the G.I. bill to give the greatest generation the access to college that helped build our modern middle class. Nowadays American students toil in overcrowded classrooms with leaky roofs, while the cost of college soars out of reach.

America grew up investing in its land and its people. Historically, we directed roughly 8 percent of our gross domestic product to long-range investments, and the investment paid off. Now we are down below 4 percent. Our post World War II infrastructure is starting to decay, and we aren’t replacing it. We are lamenting the loss of jobs rather than hiring people to renew and rebuild.

Other countries are racing past. China spends 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure investment and opens a new subway system every year.

...As this report is released, America’s economy is in a deep downturn, which is now spreading across the globe. A major recovery program is essential to lift this economy from what is likely to be the worst recession since the Great Depression. Direct public investment—in new energy and conservation, in modernizing our infrastructure, in education and training, and research and development—should be the centerpiece of any recovery plan. That is not only necessary to lift the economy in the short run; it is a vital down payment on the sustained public investment that we need to sustain a competitive and decent society in a global economy.

(You can read the full report here in PDF format.)

Today, Obama announced what will doubtless be one of his centerpiece domestic policies for his first term, along with healthcare reform.

I have already directed my economic team to come up with an Economic Recovery Plan that will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011 — a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office. We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.

These aren’t just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis; these are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long. And they represent an early down payment on the type of reform my administration will bring to Washington — a government that spends wisely, focuses on what works, and puts the public interest ahead of the same special interests that have come to dominate our politics.

On domestic issues, at least, Obama seems prepared to listen to - and act upon - the ideas of his progressive base. A big commitment to a minumum baseline of infrastructure spending seems far more reasonable and rational than the same idea being applied to military spending. And given the economic situation right now, it would seem impossible to do both without the kind of massive deficit spending Obama has already said he won't enter into. That's something that gives me hope that Obama's foreign and national security policies won't end up quite as hawkish as the seem to be tending right now.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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