STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Ed Rendell Calls for Massive Infrastructure New Deal
By Staff News & Analysis - February 15, 2013

Rebuilding our economic backbone … We're getting beat by Estonia. Not that there's anything wrong with the tiny state on the Baltic Sea. But the nation that built the Hoover Dam, pioneered the Interstate Highway System and created the best aviation system in the world, is rapidly sliding toward the bottom of the list when it comes to infrastructure. Infrastructure is the economic backbone of any modern society. Without a reliable, functioning system, things we take for granted would fall apart: roads and bridges, schools, public and private transportation, the energy grid that powers our lives, the water we drink. But today the United States no longer leads the world in infrastructure competitiveness. Countries like the Netherlands, South Korea and Singapore now rank in the top 10, according to the World Economic Forum, while the United States, once No. 1, has fallen to 14. If this does not concern you, it should. – Reuters, Ed Rendell

Dominant Social Theme: America Needs to Wake Up and Build Its Future.

Free-Market Analysis: We put the letters in caps in our dominant social theme, above, because you can almost hear former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell making that statement in rolling tones.

He wrote this editorial for Reuters in his capacity as co-chairman of Building America's Future, "a bipartisan coalition of elected officials advocating infrastructure investment," or so Reuters informs us.

This is, in our view, actually an elite dominant social theme because it is part of a larger dialectic that only involves two potential choices. The first one is that "America" doesn't rebuild its ruined infrastructure. The second choice is that it does.

In both instances, there is no question about where the funding is going to come from. The US government is going to come up with funds for yet more trillions to "rebuild America."

This is a convenient trope of a power elite that wants to make sure only government is responsible for the necessities of industrial operation. The top elites utilize mercantilism to first create and then manipulate government levers of power. They are attempting to fully build out the mechanism of world government.

In the process they have bankrupted the United States because the West apparently has to be brought down and the developing world has to be brought up before the two halves can merge.

While US infrastructure has been ruined by neglect and purposeful incompetence, the top elites intend to continue to control the conversation about how the US's infrastructure can best be rehabilitated.

To this end, no doubt, Governor Rendell has been retained and equipped with a resonant message that sounds reasonable but that we doubt will ever be implemented. Here's more:

Building America's Future, a national and bipartisan coalition of state and local elected officials that I co-chair with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently updated Falling Apart and Falling Behind, a comprehensive report on the state of America's infrastructure.

What's the bottom line? Our legacy of advancement and innovation – the very things that made the United States an economic superpower – is at risk. Global competitors are racing ahead. They're doing it by making smart, long-term investments in modern networks, such as rail, ports and electrical grids, to meet the demands of the global economy.

A case in point is the investment in port infrastructure made by our competitors in anticipation of larger vessels becoming the norm once the newly widened Panama Canal is completed. Since 2000, China has invested more than $5 trillion in its ports. Brazil has invested more than $250 billion since 2008.

The result? China now has six of the world's busiest ports and the U.S. has none of the top 10. Shanghai's port now moves more container traffic in a year than the top eight U.S. ports combined. Brazil's investment has gone into its Acu Superport, larger than the island of Manhattan, with state-of-the-art highway, pipeline and conveyor-belt capacity to ease the transfer of raw materials onto ships heading to China.

And the United States? The World Economic Forum ranks us 19th in the quality of our port infrastructure, behind such countries as Iceland, Denmark and – yes – Estonia. Our roads are not much better – with expensive consequences for every American.

Rendell hits all the requisite elite memes in the above statements. The main meme is treating the issue as one that must be settled between nation-states. Nations are actually made up of people and it is PEOPLE that infrastructure benefits … or doesn't.

"America" could not care less if China now has "six of the world's busiest ports" because America does not exist as a conscious entity. Neither does "China." When politicians want to provide certain rhetorical messages, they fall back on attributing human dimensions to conceptual elements such as nation-states.

What Rendell really is trying to do with his assertions is to present the inevitability that "America" will have to pay for a massive overhaul of "her" infrastructure. This will never happen, in our view – but then again, it is not supposed to. It sounds good, though. Here's what he wants:

To regain our status as a world leader, we must develop a national infrastructure strategy for the next decade. Working together, Washington must:

Produce a 10-year critical infrastructure plan that makes significant new investments;

Pass a long-term transportation bill;

Target federal dollars toward economically strategic freight gateways and corridors;

Refocus investment on projects of national significance.

It is time to create a National Infrastructure Bank that would leverage financing from the federal, state, local and private sectors. This could provide funding for critical projects that cross jurisdictions and affect multiple sectors such as roads, water and energy.

Take this "program" at face value for a moment. Where does he think the money is going to come from? The US is bankrupt. Does Rendell think the Federal Reserve is going to print it for him? Does he really believe that fiscal policy will raise the necessary dollars?

Here's another idea – the one that the super elites don't want mentioned. Perhaps at some point, given the ongoing presence of what we call the Internet Reformation, people will begin to suggest that private industry become responsible for infrastructure.

The argument has been in the modern era that private industry simply cannot ram through the sociopolitical demands that are necessary when it comes to building large projects.

But given the state of the US's roads, bridges and other infrastructure, perhaps the time has come to get the US government out of the infrastructure business.

Let industry itself collude on a local level to create necessary facilities for industrial development.

Admittedly, this sounds fanciful and unrealistic. But drive through today's US surveying its ruined cities, tremulous bridges, rusting railroads and crumbling roads and contemplate the alternative.

Is the current US political system really capable of rejuvenation?

After Thoughts

Perhaps it is time to allow the Invisible Hand of competition to go to work.

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