October 14, 2011Work that needs doing, workers ready to do it
I’d like to start today's blog post with the words of a newsmaker from another time:
Pres Reagan wrote:
One of America’s great material blessings is the outstanding network of roads and highways that spreads across this vast continent. Freedom of travel and the romance of the road are vital parts of our heritage. They also form a vital commercial artery unequaled anywhere else in the world.
But let's face it: Time and wear have taken their toll. So, I'm asking the Congress to approve a new highway program. It will stimulate 170,000 jobs, not in make-work projects but in real, worthwhile work in the hard-hit construction industries, and an additional 150,000 jobs in related industries.
We will be preserving for future generations of Americans a highway system that has long been the envy of the world.
Those are the words of President Ronald Reagan on November 27, 1982, just 40 days before he signed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act into law. Reagan’s transportation jobs bill passed a Congress controlled by an opposition party that, only weeks before, had picked up 27 seats in the 1982 midterm elections.
A lot has changed here in Washington over the past 29 years. But nothing’s changed more than the evolution of a culture in which elected officials today are rewarded for intransigence.
When then-President-elect Obama, a Democrat, asked me, a lifelong Republican, to serve as Transportation Secretary, he asked me to help solve the American peoples’ problems--to stand up for compromise and cooperation in those areas where Democrats and Republicans have almost always agreed. And, as President Reagan and his opposition Congress showed, there’s no better example of a traditionally bipartisan issue than transportation.
I've said many times, there’s no such thing as a Democratic road or a Republican bridge. And when those roads and bridges are in danger of falling down, there’s no such thing as a Democratic or Republican job repairing them. That's why I've been barnstorming the country over the past few weeks to discuss the American Jobs Act.
Construction workers in St. Paul and businesspeople in Kansas City alike agree that rebuilding American infrastructure is a great way to make needed transportation improvements and put Americans back to work. The AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce agree. And for years and years, Democratic and Republican legislators in Congress have agreed--until now.
For too many, compromise has become a dirty word – and cooperation an unforgivable sin. When the only goal in Congress is preventing the other side from achieving anything, the American people surely lose.
The American people are getting tired of it. Yesterday, after a discussion about jobs at the National Press Club, one of the first questions I was asked was, "What will it take to break this partisan gridlock?"
Of course, the answer is that the American public will have to hold the people they elect accountable for getting things done. I hope we can take action to get America back to work and our economy back on track well before an election that is still 13 months away. Because at a time when we desperately need tried and true policy prescriptions--bipartisan remedies that have a documented track-record of improving our economic well-being, especially as it comes to jobs and transportation--we can't get them.
Whether by road, rail or air, we’re quickly reaching or exceeding capacity while putting off needed upgrades. And--make no mistake--we all pay the price of our inaction in the global marketplace. As recently as 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked America’s infrastructure the best in the world. Today? We aren’t even in the top ten.
That infrastructure belongs to all of us. It’s more than the way we get from one place to another; it’s the way we lead our lives and pursue our dreams. Economists and analysts of every political persuasion have told us that the American Jobs Act will boost the economy and spur hiring. Unlikely allies like state governors from both parties are saying that jobs on vital projects shouldn’t be casualties of partisan warfare.
I couldn't agree more. President Obama couldn't agree more. We've got work to do, and we've got workers ready to do it. We're ready to move some dirt. All we need to do is move Congress.http://fastlane.dot.gov/2011/10/jobs-ta ... -club.html