How America Is Becoming A Third World Country

The secret: not investing in or even adequately maintaining our infrastructure and when we do invest, we invest in the wrong stuff. 

A survey came out earlier this week that is pretty scarifying:

According to Norman F. Anderson, president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, the survey paints a dark picture for U.S. infrastructure. “We have conducted this survey around the world, and the overall results for the U.S. are some of the lowest scores that we have seen. U.S. scores are on par with Peru, in terms of the country’s ability to develop infrastructure projects, and well below those of Brazil, India, China, and other countries with which we compete for scarce infrastructure dollars and expertise. Particularly in the wake of President Obama’s jobs plan and call for an infrastructure bank, the survey reveals the need for urgent action and a clear infrastructure strategy for the US.”

Anderson wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that illustrated some of what's wrong with our current approach to infrastructure projects:

The problem is that today in our country it takes an average of 10 years to go from concept to the point at which heavy equipment gets its “notice to proceed.” The Netherlands, not an environmental bandit, faced a similar problem a decade ago, took action and reduced that period to three years. The current process is not deliberate and systematic; it is ponderous, inefficient and deeply dysfunctional.

The 3rd Annual North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum just wrapped up and brought some much-needed attention to these issues. Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Bob Menendez all spoke at the confab which emphasized Anderson's suggestion that new projects focus on jobs:

This is an emergency, so focus on the one statistic that matters, creating jobs. An infrastructure project lasts for 30 to 40 years, so when selecting projects we should score three kinds of job yields:direct jobs, those workers directly employed by the project; indirect jobs, those involved in creating the materials for the work, such as manufacturing steel; and induced jobs, those that the project will eventually produce (such as when a D.C. Metro stop sparks new development nearby or a port project brings new commerce). Infrastructure projects need to be scored — and are scored in other countries — on both jobs created initially, and all the jobs created (and the quality of those jobs) over the lifetime of a project.

A focus on job yield will help the nation prioritize those infrastructure sectors that are most productive in job creation, channeling marginally more resources in that direction. Think about it — project investment would have less to do with congressional districts and political favors and more to do with systematically building our future. Here you could easily argue that the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport would be a better investment than adding a lane to a parallel highway.

 

 

There's more...

How America Is Becoming A Third World Country

The secret: not investing in or even adequately maintaining our infrastructure and when we do invest, we invest in the wrong stuff. 

A survey came out earlier this week that is pretty scarifying:

According to Norman F. Anderson, president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, the survey paints a dark picture for U.S. infrastructure. “We have conducted this survey around the world, and the overall results for the U.S. are some of the lowest scores that we have seen. U.S. scores are on par with Peru, in terms of the country’s ability to develop infrastructure projects, and well below those of Brazil, India, China, and other countries with which we compete for scarce infrastructure dollars and expertise. Particularly in the wake of President Obama’s jobs plan and call for an infrastructure bank, the survey reveals the need for urgent action and a clear infrastructure strategy for the US.”

Anderson wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that illustrated some of what's wrong with our current approach to infrastructure projects:

The problem is that today in our country it takes an average of 10 years to go from concept to the point at which heavy equipment gets its “notice to proceed.” The Netherlands, not an environmental bandit, faced a similar problem a decade ago, took action and reduced that period to three years. The current process is not deliberate and systematic; it is ponderous, inefficient and deeply dysfunctional.

The 3rd Annual North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum just wrapped up and brought some much-needed attention to these issues. Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Bob Menendez all spoke at the confab which emphasized Anderson's suggestion that new projects focus on jobs:

This is an emergency, so focus on the one statistic that matters, creating jobs. An infrastructure project lasts for 30 to 40 years, so when selecting projects we should score three kinds of job yields:direct jobs, those workers directly employed by the project; indirect jobs, those involved in creating the materials for the work, such as manufacturing steel; and induced jobs, those that the project will eventually produce (such as when a D.C. Metro stop sparks new development nearby or a port project brings new commerce). Infrastructure projects need to be scored — and are scored in other countries — on both jobs created initially, and all the jobs created (and the quality of those jobs) over the lifetime of a project.

A focus on job yield will help the nation prioritize those infrastructure sectors that are most productive in job creation, channeling marginally more resources in that direction. Think about it — project investment would have less to do with congressional districts and political favors and more to do with systematically building our future. Here you could easily argue that the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport would be a better investment than adding a lane to a parallel highway.

 

 

There's more...

Democrats won’t win by running against Bush

Even though he wasn’t on the ballot, Democrats ran against George W. Bush in 2008 and won. This isn’t 2008, and that strategy won’t work again. It’s a historical lesson: we can’t fight the current war with the strategy and technology of the last one. I pound my head against the wall every time I see something like this:

Watching yesterday's forum on "Meet the Press" -- which featuring NRCC Chair Pete Sessions, NRSC Chair John Cornyn, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen and DSCC Chair Bob Menendez -- it appeared to be a Bush vs. Obama debate by proxy… Van Hollen: "During the whole eight years of the Bush administration, we actually lost over 600,000 private sector jobs." And Menendez: "It's not just talking about President Bush; it's the policies that they espouse that are in essence Bush's policies. Those led us to a 72% percent increase in the debt from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion when Bush left."

I’m reminded of a discussion between two pundits I heard on public radio last week, though unfortunately I don’t remember which show so there's no link or transcript. One pundit mentioned that Obama has been president for 2 ½ years. A couple minutes later, the other said basically "Wait a minute; you said two and a half when it’s actually one and a half. I don’t blame you for the slip because neither I nor the interviewer caught it, which speaks to the fact that Obama is now an entrenched reality in voters’ minds and that he owns all the problems he faces."

Politicians have to find a way to play to the voters’ mindset rather than patronizing them by trying to change it, and this year it is, “Talk to me about today’s problems, not yesterday’s. You’re in charge now so I will blame you.” It doesn’t matter if there are too many problems to solve in just two years, and it doesn’t matter when the problems started or why. Many voters feel too busy living their lives to educate themselves about the details, or feel that “common sense” means the problem is what it looks like at first blush and don’t tell me otherwise. Hence the new Pew poll that finds most voters think Obama started the bailouts, and hence Republican Senator Bob Bennett’s comment that voters “confused TARP and the stimulus plan. They confused TARP and the omnibus bill. They confused TARP and the president’s budget.”

Unfortunately, Democrats aren’t going to get the chance to correct voters about the Bush policies. A candidate gets just 30 seconds to be quoted in a news story and 30 seconds to shoot an ad, and just three points voters will remember from a fair booth or local speech. Don’t give them a ten minute economic lecture or timeline – find something concise that shares their focus on the now. They won’t even listen if you start with a focus on the yesterday. They’ll walk away muttering, “Typical politician, pointing fingers and making excuses.”

So unless your opponent was a prominent member of Bush’s economic team, a better campaign line than blaming Bush would be, “Thanks to Democratic policies, the private sector has created jobs for six straight months after losing them for every month since 2007. Tea party opponents, however, want to get rid of those policies, as well as Social Security and the Civil Rights Act.” You could add “We could have done even more if the Senate opposition was focused on policy rather than politics,” but that’s starting to get into the procedural weeds about which non-junkies don’t want to spend time learning. When it's time to talk about your opponent, talk about the current opponents - John Boehner's pro-BP and pro-Wall Street comments, the aforementioned Rand Paul and Sharron Angle - not about the past.

The moment you say the magic word Bush, voters will think you’re shirking responsibility and ducking blame. It doesn’t matter if it is indeed Bush’s fault and it doesn’t matter if you’re not to blame – we’re talking about perception and about November, not about policy or truth. So again, Democrats have to share the voters’ focus on today, not waste time trying to get them to think about yesterday. Don’t rerun the 2008 campaign when it’s not 2008.

NC-Sen: Marshall wins runoff, will face Burr

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has won today's runoff Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. With most of the votes counted, Marshall leads Cal Cunningham by 60 percent to 40 percent. Marshall will face first-term incumbent Richard Burr, whose approval ratings have long been anemic.

I'll never understand why the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee intervened on behalf of Cunningham in this race. Since the campaign began, Marshall has polled better against Burr than Cunningham. In fact, Tom Jensen, director of North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, noted today,

Marshall is looking considerably more competitive against Richard Burr at this point in the election cycle than Kay Hagan did against Elizabeth Dole two years ago. Our most recent poll found Marshall down 46-39 to Burr. In late June of 2008 Dole led Hagan 51-37 in our polling. Certainly the 2010 election cycle is not shaping up as positively for Democrats as the 2008 one did. But Burr's approval numbers are weaker than Dole's were, his lead in the race at this point is smaller than Dole's was, and the fact that he is easily the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country should ensure this race gets a lot of national money poured into it. Burr is favored to win but it will be close, and Democratic voters ensured that today with their votes for Marshall.

A win for Democrats in North Carolina would virtually eliminate any chance the GOP has of retaking the Senate this November. At the very least, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee will now have to spend precious resources on defense here.

UPDATE: Ed Kilgore reports on the other North Carolina primary election results.

NC-Sen: Ken Lewis endorses Elaine Marshall

Elaine Marshall picked up a big endorsement yesterday in her campaign for the U.S. Senate from Ken Lewis:

Lewis said he was particularly impressed with the conviction and courage shown by Marshall, North Carolina's secretary of state, even as Democratic officials in Washington put their support behind the other remaining candidate, Cal Cunningham. He praised Marshall for her ability to organize grass roots support and to appeal to a broad range of voters.

"I believe that to win this fall, Democrats will have to do both," Lewis said, as Marshall and her supporters stood nearby. "And Secretary Marshall provides us with a demonstrably stronger opportunity to do just that." [...]

Lewis said during Wednesday's news conference that he has since [March] had more conversations with Marshall and believes she will be able to lead in Washington. He continued to pound on a message of insider politics by questioning the role the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee played in recruiting Cunningham instead of letting North Carolina voters choose a candidate, declaring that they had been "trying to exercise undue influence in our nominating process."

In the May 4 primary, Marshall won about 36 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Cunningham and 17 percent for Lewis. She was already favored going into the June 22 runoff election, and Lewis' support makes her the prohibitive favorite. The winner of the runoff will face first-term incumbent Senator Richard Burr, whose approval numbers are anemic. This isn't our best pickup opportunity in the Senate, but the race is winnable with a strong campaign and GOTV.

Of all the questionable moves made by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under Bob Menendez's leadership, meddling in the North Carolina primary looks like the worst. It's bad enough for the DSCC to blow money on Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter against challengers from the left, but you'd expect the committee to support incumbents. I see no reason for the DSCC to take sides in North Carolina. Cunningham doesn't poll better against Burr than Marshall does; in fact, Marshall does better in some polling. Most progressives in North Carolina favor Marshall over Cunningham (though Cunningham did get the Sierra Club's endorsement).

Without the DSCC's spending for Cunningham, Marshall might have won the primary outright on May 4. It's not as if we won't need the DSCC's money in at least 10 other Senate races this fall.

Any thoughts on this campaign or North Carolina politics generally are welcome in this thread.

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