Even before the COVID-19 pandemic upended daily life, America’s infrastructure was crumbling in disrepair. Now our economy itself is falling apart and the skyrocketed unemployment rate triggered by the pandemic has created the ‘crisis within the crisis.’
Fortunately, there is a way for our nation’s leaders to remedy both afflictions — the physical and fiscal needs of America — at once: Rescue our economy by rebuilding our country’s highways, bridges, airports, and water supply systems and bolstering support for our integral health care systems.
Moving forward, a new federalism could unite local, state and national governments in truly visionary programs to get Americans back to work and save our economy from an expensive free fall. It may not be perfect, but the panacea could be shoring up the nation’s vast public works, transportation network, and health care system needs.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis already has a jump-start in such forward-thinking by expediting the I-4 Ultimate project, with major improvements that will relieve traffic congestion in a key urban region and put Floridians to work. In Florida’s capital city, the Tallahassee/Leon County Office of Economic Vitality has been boosting the local economy by investing local infrastructure sales tax dollars to help ailing local businesses. Frontloading new capital projects is also the kind of helpful spirit and smart policy emphasis that can brighten our path to economic recovery.
We can’t yet calculate the cumulative total losses and damage inflicted by this prolonged era of isolation, deprivation and suffering. But we know the staggering repercussions are being measured in lost lives, jobs, income, business, and sense of normalcy across the nation. It is evidenced by shocking numbers of Americans applying for unemployment benefits and waiting in miles-long lines for life-sustaining groceries at food banks.
All Americans benefit from our railroads, highways, bridges, ports, airports, water and waste systems and other massive public works projects, as well as our electric grid, our schools, and our health care system. Let’s put them to work in a way that makes our country, states, and communities better and stronger.
The time is now to create a sweeping federal, state and local set of programs to modernize our infrastructure and retrain many newly jobless Americans in the skills needed to make these programs effective and successful. Such a dynamic approach could put our unemployed citizens back to work. At the same time, it would boost the economy and strengthen the vital networks that we need and use every day to move goods and people, keep our water clean, expand access to broadband technology, provide health care, and so much more.
During the desperate Depression-era times after taking office in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt conceived New Deal programs for the country, investing federal funds in projects and putting unemployed people to work. A modern version of that is wholly appropriate now.
Revitalizing America’s infrastructure united the country and saved the economy once before — to help lift the nation up from crisis. Repairing, rebuilding, and modernizing our infrastructure and health care systems can do it again today. Let today’s new federalism become the historic alignment of local, state, and national governments collaborating to Rebuild America, again.
Ron Sachs is the founder & CEO of Sachs Media Group.