My two topics this week: Infrastructure and Trade.
One of the very first questions I’m being asked these days by a new audience is, what is infrastructure? They are wondering why it’s a four-letter word in Washington. I finally put my head together and figured out a way to define it.
Think of infrastructure as medical devices, medicine. This is what computer access or cell phone, light bulbs and housing all costs to the individual. Which if you believe in that, is nothing more than the demand for that service and product. For any one person, a cell phone may cost a couple of hundred dollars, etc.
All infrastructure is much the same. The need for all must be met.
So if they are in need of a cell phone but can’t afford it, I feel they would probably like my cellphone service. If they are in need of light bulbs but can’t afford to buy new ones, I’d be happy to oblige. If they are in need of light bulbs but can’t afford to replace the ones that are worn out, then I’d put the bulbs on the curb and donate them to a charity to sell to help pay for their apartment complex’s basement flood protection system.
If they are in need of a bridge, a tunnel, an airport, a train line, any form of transportation, then I’d love to be a part of that. I’d love to donate my Internet expertise. I could even donate my helicopter, if I feel like giving up air travel. I could donate mine.
But if they are in need of government subsidy or if they are simply unable to pay for their own maintenance because they don’t have the money, then I’d sure be glad to have my weight carried into some of the projects. I even would be happy to give them my life at some point if needed.
This is why infrastructure is a four-letter word in Washington because it is used as a crutch and it is heavily subsidized. To ask for the money is to take it away from people and programs we actually need in this country.
On a recently released June jobs report came news that construction jobs experienced the largest gains last month of any industry since February. The Federal Reserve seems to agree with me.
I’m often told I’m running to “lock-in” public policy for the next 10 or 20 years. I wonder what people would think if I decided to represent them only on infrastructure and not on other issues? “Lock-in” means no change. I believe that, given time, the American people will have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to politicians and elect others to represent them on “lock-in” issues and to be willing to let their representatives have a do-over vote on matters that will affect their lives.
I see infrastructure and free trade as the cornerstone of what we need to make those changes. Infrastructure benefits everyone. Free trade benefits everyone. And in my opinion, that is what American workers actually want to hear and embrace.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) is an outspoken advocate for Social Security, Medicare and Social Security benefits for all Americans. He is President of the Congressional Democrats’ Caucus Foundation and a member of the House Democratic Caucus, Democratic Leadership, and House Democratic Whip committees. He is currently Chair of the House Democrats’ Caucus Foundation Board of Trustees.