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Higgins Calls For 5-Year, $1.2 Trillion Investment in American Infrastructure

Nov 17, 2011
Press Release

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Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) says Washington should be taking bold action address the economy that includes a robust focus on nation building in the United States, a move certain to create desperately needed jobs.   

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the United States must spend $2.2 trillion on infrastructure over the next five years to meet America’s most basic infrastructure needs but that less than half that is currently budgeted, leaving an approximately $1.2 trillion shortfall.  Higgins cited a report by the New America Foundation that found that a $1.2 trillion, 5 year infrastructure program will create over 27 million jobs through the projects themselves and multiplier effects.  Today Higgins called on Washington to make that commitment to rebuild America’s foundation.

Congressman Higgins was one of 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans recently sending a letter to the Congressional Supercommittee, asking it to “go big” and consider up to $4 trillion in deficit reduction measures including spending cuts and revenue increases over the next decade.  He also previously called for significant investments in infrastructure in a letter to President Obama recommending job creation priorities.

Below is the text of Congressman Higgins’ speech as prepared for delivery on the House Floor:

“Mr. Speaker, we are approaching the deadline for the Supercommittee to propose a debt reduction plan.  Most economists are in agreement on what we need to do:  In the long term, reduce debt by at least four trillion dollars over ten years through a mix of added revenues and reduced spending.   And in the short term, make immediate investments to create jobs and reduce unemployment. 

“I encourage the Supercommittee not to ignore the second of those priorities because now is the perfect time to create jobs by making large scale investments in American infrastructure. 

“Since World War Two every economic contraction was followed by a period of economic expansion.  But although economists tell us the recession has ended, we have had no economic expansion.  Unemployment remains at 9% and economic growth is projected to be moderate at best. 

“The reason our economy is taking so long to recover is because this recession was more severe than any since the Great Depression, something that seemingly few in government, finance or academia realized at the time. 

“Because of the historic severity of this recession American households, local and state governments -- even European governments -- find themselves in debt like never before.  Consequently consumer demand is and will be depressed while households and governments reduce spending.  And when demand falls businesses don’t hire.  It is that simple.

“Some believe this period of decreased demand will last five to seven years.  A policy of fiscal austerity will only make matters worse.  We only have to look at the United States in 1937, Japan in the 1990’s and Europe last year to understand that when consumers are not spending the worst thing a government can do is to stop spending itself. 

“The New America Foundation report “The Way Forward”, Robert Hockett, Daniel Alpert and Noriel Roubini make the case that investing one point two trillion dollars over five years in rebuilding our infrastructure will create twenty seven million jobs.  Twenty seven million jobs. 

“That is more than the twenty two million jobs created under President Clinton.  And the job creation of the 1990’s raised so much revenue that our federal budget reached a record surplus.  Times were so good we were debating, at that time, the implications of repaying the entirety of our nation’s debt. 

“The lesson is that the greatest debt and deficit reduction tool is job creation.  That is why the Supercommittee must include significant job creation components in its recommendations.

“Let me add Mr. Speaker that our infrastructure is sorely in need of a massive investment.  Our roads, bridges, airports, energy grid, and water infrastructure are in horrible condition. 

“The World Economic Forum ranks America twenty third in infrastructure quality.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a D grade.  Transportation for America reports that there are sixty three thousand structurally deficient bridges in our country including ninety nine in my community of Western New York. 

“The Chamber of Commerce has said that unless we act to repair our infrastructure, we will suffer three hundred and thirty six billion dollars in lost growth over the next five years.

“To my colleagues who believe we can’t afford to make investments at this time I say: we can’t afford not to.  Delaying the repair or replacement of infrastructure by just two years can increase the cost of doing those repairs by a factor of five. 

“I would also note that we just spent sixty two billion dollars nation-building in Iraq and seventy three billion dollars nation-building in Afghanistan.  There was no objection then to borrowing to finance that nation building.  Nor should there be objection now to borrowing to do some nation-building right here at home.

“And given current economic conditions, financing American infrastructure projects will never be cheaper.  Interest rates are extremely low, the cost of labor and materials are low due to lack of demand, and the equipment is cheap because it is idle. 

“Repairing and expanding our infrastructure is work that we need to do to stay globally competitive, and it will never be cheaper to do it than it is today.

“Quite simply, there is much work to be done. A lot of Americans need the work.  And now is the time to do it. 

“Mr. Speaker, a large scale, one point two trillion dollar, five year investment in infrastructure would create twenty seven million American Jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. 

“It will reduce unemployment, it will reduce the deficit, and in the end we will have the infrastructure our economy needs and our country deserves.”