Something Positive for a Change II

Last year I posted about IBM's Smarter Cities challenge because I thought it was a really clever and positive program. Just wanted to post an update as they're launching their 2nd Smarter Cities Challenge for cities to get them grants for projects that improve transportation, government accountability, sustainability and create infrastructure and jobs.

Triple Pundit has more:

IBM is in the midst of a three-year program that amounts to a gift of technology and assistance to cities that can can make a compelling case for a helping hand.

The data and consulting giant’s Smarter Cities Challenge is a three-year, 100-city, US$50 million grant program in which IBM’s top technical experts and consultants help cities solve vexing problems through data analysis.

IBM opened up the 2012 grant application process last week and cities have until December 16 to apply for a grant. IBM is focusing on urban centers because they’re home to more than half the world’s population and, as IBM describes them, they’re more “economically powerful, politically influential, and technologically advanced than at any time in human history.”

And as anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, urban centers have gargantuan problems managing budgets, safety, transportation infrastructures, and a host of other functions. IBM believes it can provide technological fixes to these problems through its consultation services and resources such as City Forward,  an online trends and statistics tool.

Video after the jump.

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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.

 

 

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Obama Reclaiming the Frame?

On the policy side of the President's jobs plan and "Buffet Tax" address this morning, reactions are mixed.  At FireDogLake, David Dayden likes the move away from the "grand bargain" territory and what appears to be an early goodbye to the super-committee, while John Walker sees the door to Medicare cuts still open.  Yglesias sees an open door with a line in the sand: not cuts to Medicare without revenue increases.  Aravosis thinks tying increases to even a hint at Medicare cuts is just dumb.  And Ezra Klein thinks the White House has learned it's lesson on chasing the "Compromiser in Chief" title: the public "gives no points for effort," they want results.

But the stand out moment for me was the change in frame in the address.  Bipartisanship/compromise/balance got the obligatory mentions, but overall the speech elludes to a wiser WH.  Via Josh Marshall:

I hope President Obama will keep hitting what I think was his strongest point in his Jobs Act speech. That is, either/or. We can have no new taxes ever for wealthy people or we can save Medicare. But not both.

Either/Or.

For the first time in a long while, Obama today at least hinted at an unwillingness to move his goal-posts closer to where Boehner has set his.  He grabbed the popular position, drew his base line a little more to the left, and reinforced it with a veto threat.  Baby steps.  Not shooting for the moon, but after 1 yr plus of reinforcing the GOP talking points on deficit reduction instead of focusing on jobs, this may be the only way out of the woods for the WH and what's left of the middle class.

I'm still skeptical the goal posts won't be moved a thousand times, especially if the possibility of having debt-ceiling circus redux months before the election scares them off the "either/or" theme (Joan McCarter: it shouldn't!), but today's speech was at least refreshing.

Also, Erica Payne and The Agenda Project, way ahead of them:

 

The Infrastructure Bank - An Economic Elixir?

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With Congress returning this week, 90 Second Summaries kicks back into gear for the fall. All eyes will be on President Obama as he delivers an address Thursday evening to a joint session of Congress. Mr. Obama is expected to propose a infrastructure-related program to get the economy moving again, and an infrastructure bank is a prime candidate for inclusion in this package.

Last season, we covered a prominent infrastructure bank bill by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) and released an interview with the Congresswoman alongside it. Rep. DeLauro has reintroduced her proposal for the 112th Congress, so we are updating this episode to account for recent developments, and we'll be posting highlights of the interview on Thursday.

Here's the episode:

As always, the one-pager with more details is below the fold.

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Jobs Speeches vs. Jobs Plans

I'm on board with those upset over the infuriating optics of the President asking for a speech, Republicans shouting we don't wanna, and the President backing downAgain.  First reaction, for some reason it riled me more than Democrats rolling over in the debt-ceiling debate.  Second, the win here was nil, save a few -- admittedly too rare -- headlines like "The President Actually Tells Republicans No."

Republicans don't want to detract from their debate.  Fine.  The President shouldn't want to detract from that debate either.  It's Rick Perry's big moment, and smart money says that's comedy gold.  No one outside the beltway is going to care about the reschedule, or who looks like the adult in the room by next week.

In fact the speech itself will be a minor blip on the radar compared to any jobs plan itself, if -- a big if -- the President gets real.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, via LA Times:

Who knows what's politically achievable until we try?" Trumka said. "The president should articulate a solution of the size and scale necessary to solve the problem. We have a jobs crisis. … If you do only what you think the other side and the 'tea party' will agree to, then they control the agenda." 

[...]

For those worried about the deficit, Trumka insists that job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand.

"They complement one another," he said. "You want to get rid of the deficit? Put 25 million people back to work and you won't have a deficit problem."

Trumka gives the Times a detailed plan worth reading, but the point here is behind the details: Set the bar on a jobs plan as high as you can, and use that as a starting point. 

Just like was said in the stimulus debates.  And the health care debates.  And the Bush Tax Cuts debates.  And the debt ceiling "debates."  And...

Republicans will oppose and roll out the hyperbole cannons, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will say dumb things.   But economically this is a chance to set an agenda and begin addressing an actual problem.  Politically this is the Democrats' last chance before the 14 month circus is in full swing to reset the narrative ceded the GOP.

Voters have already reset, Republicans have shown their hand with Bush's Cantor's jobs plan deregulatory orgy which managed to be even more sucktastic than his last "jobs" plan.  It's not going to take a committee to find a more popular and effective first step:

Over much of the 20th century, America's strong infrastructure investment was a major factor attracting global corporations headquartered in other countries to invest and create jobs here. Rising U.S. standards of living were fueled by a strong infrastructure system that facilitated the growth of companies in America, both global and domestic alike: transportation systems to move people and products, electrical systems to power plants and offices, communications backbones to drive computers and creativity. By 2008, the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employed over 5.6 million Americans -- nearly 2 million in manufacturing -- and exported $232.4 billion in goods. That's 18.1% of America's total.

(h/t Think Progress)

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