June 27, 2008

Strengthening American Infrastructure is a Matter of National Security

Remember when the Republican Party used to champion strong national defense and actually mean it? Even if you disagree with many of their policies, I think you can agree that their focus on defense helped to bring some balance to American politics. But since Reagan came to office, their focus has narrowed to the point where the United States has become strong globally while becoming tragically weak at home. Our infrastructure has been neglected, and it is time to recognize that this is a national security issue. Fortunately, there is much we can do to improve the situation which will also provide a significant boost to our economy.

It is too easy for us to watch images of pain and suffering on our TV screens and feel detached from what is happening. It is one thing when the images are coming from the other side of the globe but quite another when they originate right here in our own country. Not only do we often feel powerless to help, but we have started to habituate to what seems to be one crisis after another.

Whether we focus on flooding in the Midwest, hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, wildfires in the West, or bridge collapses anywhere, the American public is faced with one disaster after another. This trend will get worse - and not simply because of global warming. We are beginning to pay the price for neglecting our infrastructure for the past 30 years.

The good news is that there is still much we can do. At a minimum, I would like to see the following from the next administration:
  1. Enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, such as enhancing port security.
  2. A national public works project aimed at a combination of preventative maintenance, repairing existing problems, and deliberate hardening of high-risk targets of terrorism. Think about the boost this would give to our economy.
  3. Getting serious about the research and development of alternative energy sources. Dependence on foreign oil is a serious national security concern, and ruining what is left of our wilderness areas by drilling is not a viable solution.
  4. A national public relations campaign to educate the American people about the simple fact that an investment in our infrastructure improves our lives in countless ways and makes us safer.
How would you feel if you lost your home after a levee collapsed or a dam failed? What if a member of your family fell victim to a bridge collapse? My guess is that you'd push for increased investment in American infrastructure. You would be mad that we had been neglecting our own country for so long. We desperately need such an investment now. Our people need it, and our economy needs it.

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