Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

When will Washington listen to Ed Rendell?

In the old days, when we listened to music on vinyl discs, sometimes the needle would get stuck in a groove. A particular piece of music would repeat and repeat until you were forced to move the needle -- or lose your mind. When it comes to the nation's crumbling infrastructure, the federal government seems content to lose its mind.

This analogy came to mind as I read Bob Herbert's "Time is running out" in today's New York Times. He writes about “The Next American Economy" conference on the nation's crumbling infrastructure in Palo Alto, California this week and quotes the High Priest of Infrastructure Repair, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D).

"When Governor Rendell addressed the conference on Wednesday, he used words like 'stunning' and 'unbelievable' to describe what has happened to the nation’s infrastructure," Herbert writes. This doesn't surprise me. Rendell has been making his persuasive argument to anyone and everyone who will listen for some time. I moderated a panel almost two years ago at an "America 2050" conference, where Rendell delivered a common-sense sermon on why repairing highways, bridges, roads and investing in clean energy is necessary to put people to work and save the republic from decline. While I wasn't in Palo Alto this week, it sounds like his remarks echoed his speech in May 2008. (Advance to 83:26 to hear Rendell.)

Would that Washington moved the needle in a significant way to give Rendell a reason to stop.

By Jonathan Capehart  | February 6, 2010; 9:59 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Big weekend for New Orleans
Next: Tom Tancredo and the right-wing mind

Comments

Capehart is right.

Since 2006, when Dems took power in Congress, the nation's infrastructure has been falling down around our ears.

Roads are impassable, you dare not drive over a bridge, water and electricity are spotty at best and most people are forced to dig outdoor latrines. Public and private transportation are virtually nonexistent.

All this could of course be fixed by an influx of taxpayer dollars in the amount of several hundred billion dollars or so.
Of course the money would be passed through the dependable hands of state and local governments into the hands of capable, unionized contractors.

God bless Capehart and the other Illuminati who hold the sacred knowledge of how best to spend our newly-printed money.

Posted by: spamsux1 | February 6, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how much of the infrastructure we do have was built by the WPA, 75 years ago.

I still don't understand why so many members of the Democratic economic brain trust (e.g., Lawrence Summers) are so hostile to infrastructure spending.

Apart from sheer economics (of course infrastructure spending is stimulative!), there's the fact that, if there's any spending that everyone can get behind, it'd be that.

Because you don't - or at least, you shouldn't - take out a mortgage to finance your everyday expenses, but (mortgage crisis aside) nobody has a fundamental problem with the idea of getting one to buy a house or put on a new roof.

Hey, wait a second. Maybe there's more to that analogy than I thought...

Posted by: Itzajob | February 6, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart and Ed Rendell are of course right on the money. And stupid me, I thought last year's stimulus package was primarily designed to provide jos repairing our infrastructure (remember the term "shovel ready?" projects?) Instead we got a bunch of research grants which, while important, may not pay off for years or decades. And states got to pay their teachers to stay on the job, again nice to have but no quick payoff to the economy. Not much stimulus in that package after all..

Posted by: katem2 | February 6, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

" Mr. Capehart and Ed Rendell are of course right on the money. And stupid me, I thought last year's stimulus package was primarily designed to provide jos repairing our infrastructure (remember the term "shovel ready?" projects?) Instead we got a bunch of research grants which, while important, may not pay off for years or decades. And states got to pay their teachers to stay on the job, again nice to have but no quick payoff to the economy. Not much stimulus in that package after all.. Posted by: katem2"

We got those, too, but we certainly got plenty of "Shovel ready" construction projects. Ohio ended up spending $1 million to put up signs identifying those projects because people like you won't accept that they actually exist.m The first increment of the stimulus project was the shovel ready project stage because there were SO many projects, designed, bid, and ready to roll but without the money to start them. That, of course, was only a beginning to all the infrastructure work that the country needs to keep fifty to two hundred year old roads, bridges, buildings, aqueducts, dams, canals, from collapsing. The second stage will take longwer and cost more, but not doing the jobs will cost lives, and in general actually cost us much more in commercial losses than whatever the actual projects cost.

Republicans, of course, oppose such work because IT WILL COST MONEY. That money will mean NEW TAXES. New taxes mean that republicans will have to pay them.

The Republicans, therefore, oppose the second stimulus bill because, 1: It costs money, 2: It is SOCIALISM, and 3: It would make Obama look successful.

spamsux1 finds this contemptible, apparently.

Posted by: ceflynline | February 6, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse


Anyone who thinks of Rendell as a visionary leader hasn't lived in Pennsylvania. Sure, it is easy to say "fix our infrastructure". It doesn't take a liberal let alone a progressive to advocate for that.

But this is the same guy who has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into solving easy problems (Harrisburg to Philly high speed rail), while ignoring the 2/3 of the state to the West of him. Anyone thing that it is a coincidence that Philly is a short hop to DC.

And this is a guy who, in the middle of a state hiring freeze that he ordered, hired a former supporter and politician to a position that he created, specifically for him, and for which the guy had zero qualifications.

Rendell is part of the same, stale, Democratic machine that has practically trampeled the state into the ground, economically. If Philly wasn't between New York and DC, the entire state would be Appalachia. And so that you don't think that I am picking on the Democrats, the Republicans in this state are just as bad with the wingnuts seeming to dominate the party driving the moderates and centrists out.

Don't assume that Rendell invented the idea of infrastructure improvement. He simply jumped on the bandwagon because Pennsylvania has for, so long, underfunded its own infrastructure that it has more shovel-ready projects than Arlington National Cemetary. But that is because a LACK of vision for the state, not because Rendell was a forward thinker.

Posted by: JoeLeaphorn | February 7, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

I love Ed Rendell. He should be President Obama's Chief of Staff. Keep up the great work, Jonathan.

Posted by: mdargo | February 7, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I would love to see a WPA-style approach to our unemployment problem. Hiding job-creation programs behind the smoke and mirrors of tax credits and similar mechanisms is silly. Let's be simple, direct, and honest: if we have a lot of work that needs to be done (infrastructure maintenance and improvement) and a lot of people who need paying jobs, let's hire the out-of-work people to improve our country.

Should the salaries be large? Nah. $10 - $20 per hour, depending on where the jobs are and the local cost of living. And don't just think blue-collar; at age 57, in poor health and poor physical condition, I wouldn't be much good as road construction labor, but I'd be great as a modern-day Alan Lomax, with video replacing Lomax's original audio. Or something along those lines -- not that I'd turn up my nose at being a flagman or clerk or whatever other job needed to be done that I could handle.

I'd peg wages in the new WPA a little (but not a lot) higher than unemployment benefits, state by state. Medical care? I dunno. Maybe V.A. access for WPA workers and dependents. That or something similar would be a powerful incentive to get off unemployment and go to work doing something useful. And if the wages are kept low, there would still be a powerful incentive to look for a decent private industry job.

Now, here's the big financial kicker: would it really cost a lot more to hire people to do something useful than it does to pay unemployment and provide other subsidies?

I don't think so.

And we -- collectively -- would get a better country in return for our money, which we do not get in return for other forms of aid to people who have lost their jobs.

Posted by: roblimo | February 7, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

1. Create non existent "crisis"
2. Get weenies like Capehart to ape your talking points
3. Tax the hell out of the American people
4. Hand the tax dollars to your political cronies


How's that whole "global warming" crisis working out. Lots of real good science in that one.

Posted by: manbearpig4 | February 8, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

The real irony in the stimulus package is that the amount of money given to the states for additional health care funding via Medicaid was $45-50 billion while the amount of money that went to "shovel ready" infracstructure projects was only $5 Billion. It seems that going forward the only superhighway we'll have left is the one that directs America's wealth to the health care industry.

Posted by: SEAN19 | February 8, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company