Obama’s speech yesterday got all sorts of attention yesterday. I’ll leave it to others to parse the politics and the policy. I’m simply curious about how the global financial meltdown is going to play out. Increasingly economic analysts like John Judis insist that we will be living in a very different world in a few years.
Think about a nation consisting of regions connected by high speed rail:
Investing in high-speed rails would be very expensive, but unlike tax cuts–the benefits of which can be siphoned off in the purchase of imported goods–the money spent would go directly to reviving American industry and improving the country’s trade balance. That doesn’t just mean jobs creating dedicated tracks or new rail stations: Though the U.S. abandoned train manufacturing decades ago to the French, Germans, Canadians, and Japanese, this kind of production could be undertaken by our ailing auto companies or aircraft companies–if the federal and state governments were to place orders. And building trains that would run on electricity would be a paradigmatic example of the “green jobs” that Obama often touts.
Though a massive investment in high-speed rail brings its own set of complications, it’s worth keeping these kind of examples in mind when one hears from the Obama people that they can’t find sufficient infrastructure projects to fund. The question I would pose is this: Are we not at some point going to have to go beyond repairing roads and bridges in our conception of public spending and public works, and contemplate the kind of ambitious industrial expenditures that the country made on war production in 1941?
I hope Obama can be sufficiently bold to make this a reality. I’ve been to Europe and I want that rail system here.
Remember that Harlem became Harlem because a black business man, Phillip Payton, exploited a real estate collapse in 1904 and gained a controlling interesting in several buildings in Harlem. As a nation we are going to struggle, but we will emerge transformed.
Hat Tip TPM