Fixing Our Infrastructure Unites Americans from All Sides

Why Can’t Politicians Get it Done?

If you’re beyond frustrated at the continuing failure of politicians in Washington to fix our infrastructure and the relentless parade of “infrastructure weeks” that have become a standing joke, join the crowd.

There is no acceptable reason for inaction.

First and foremost, everyone agrees we are in crisis. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives our infrastructure a grade of D+ and notes that fixing our roads, bridges, airports, ports, dams, railways, schools, electrical grid and water systems requires an investment of $2 trillion over the next 10 years. Every day we delay this investment, the higher the cost goes and the more damage is done to our economy. Indeed, ASCE estimates that failing to close to infrastructure gap will cause $3.9 trillion in losses to our gross domestic product, $7 trillion in lost business sales, and 2.5 million lost American jobs by 2025.

Second, leaders from across all party and ideological lines recognize the urgent need to fix our infrastructure. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohoe — normally on opposite sides on most issues — recently wrote in The Washington Post, “Infrastructure is not a partisan issue. It is an American priority. Our nation’s leaders must find common cause — as we have — and once again make America a global leader on infrastructure.”

Similarly, Transportation Trades Department President Larry Willis and Chamber Vice President Edward Mortimer recently wrote, “Our two organizations do not always see eye to eye. But you can bet we will stand together when we see the toll that [infrastructure] underinvestment takes on businesses and working families.”

Plus, polls consistently show that four in five Americans support investing in our infrastructure. And President Trump pledged during his campaign to enact a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

Our hopes for breaking gridlock and taking action were boosted several weeks ago when President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to put together a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

But three weeks later, the president stormed out of a meeting to discuss infrastructure, insisting that he would pass no legislation unless House Democrats stopped conducting oversight of his administration. And we are back to square one.

I’m sorry, but infrastructure is too important to the jobs of Americans — very much including our members — and the health of our economy to be held hostage over a completely unrelated political gripe.

The challenge of paying for a $2 trillion infrastructure plan is often cited as a reason why no bill or specific proposal has yet moved forward. But if Congress and the president believed it was worth adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit to pay for tax cuts for billionaires and big business, surely they can find a way to finance infrastructure, which produces far greater economic benefits than tax cuts. And closing the infrastructure deficit is even more important to our nation’s future than closing the budget deficit.

I urge House Democrats to move forward with their own big and bold infrastructure plan, hopefully with bipartisan support. I urge all senators, regardless of party, to do the same. And perhaps in the meantime, President Trump will realize that keeping a campaign promise, adding to his legacy as a builder, and creating good American jobs all mean that signing an infrastructure law is in his own best interest, as well as the country’s.

Daniel E. Stepano
General President