Invest in America
So far I’ve discussed how much it would take to invest just a fraction of the $6000 billion we spent on destruction, to build and create instead. Fostering trust is important, in fact it is the first step in attaining eventual and lasting world peace. There is still much left to do in the world, but surely Americans would like to see some of that wasted spending to come home as well. With our water and sanitation projects well underway, we now have some breathing room to invest in ourselves.
The United States has ignored infrastructure investment for more than 20 years. Very little has been done in the way of building new infrastructure, let alone updating the existing infrastructure. Emerging nations like China have extremely efficient rail systems, Japan has a super-maglev speed train, Europe has bullet trains criss-crossing almost the entire continent. Comparatively, the US has crumbling bridges and roads, an interstate system designed in the mid-twentieth century, and has done nothing toward reinvigorating our economy, via investment, at home.
Most recently the fight in the US Congress was whether to provide much needed funds to repair the existing highways in our nation. The bill was designed to spend $302 billion over four years, in other words, $75 billion per year for investment into our highways. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t go far enough to offer to fund the investment with government financing; instead, it asked for approval to toll Americans and only to repair the existing highways, not to invest in 21st century transportation systems. Ironically, the possibility of a toll on public highways, which governments could possibly avoid imposing by utilizing taxes instead, is exactly the argument I used in my book, Three Handed Economist. The government, instead of corporations, has the funds and responsibility to build highways:
It would not, for example, be effective to allow corporations to build highways, and only a few industries have enough profitability to justify such a major investment. The use of the highways would almost certainly be restricted or tolled, and the ownership would be monopolistic in nature – perhaps even justified by the natural monopoly phenomenon.
Just to maintain operations, the highway trust fund, which is running on empty, will need to find another $16 billion each year for the next four years (Source). Without the additional funds it will go broke. Instead of funding this extra need here at home, the Congress has opted to pay for war. Instead of utilizing $302 billion to fund the highway trust fund, or to repair our highway system, our leadership decided to spend $6000 billion to destroy nations abroad.
US leadership renewed the anti-terror campaign when it announced military operations to “degrade and destroy” ISIL, which poses no immediate threat to America. That creates real problems; while discussing this issue, the top terrorism official at the State Department from 2009–2012, Daniel Benjamin said on NPR:
There are real dangers that accompany the deployment of US forces. Unfortunately, while they are very effective, that will have a radicalizing effect, and attacks on US forces, as we saw in the early days of Iraq, will have a powerful effect in terms of recruitment and energizing those supporters.
To clarify, US involvement abroad is known to radicalize and motivate new enemies to join existing terror organizations. People who wouldn’t otherwise have a problem with the US or Americans, join the resistance, so to speak.
The US Congress did, finally, pass a bill to fund the highway trust fund through May, 2015. Notice that puts the problem squarely in the next congresses power; no current congress person must be concerned with this until after the election in November. The vote, sadly, was to provide a mere $10.8 billion to the fund with no long term plan for perpetual investment (Source). Where did the funds come from, one might ask? Instead of reducing our overly bloated defense budget, they utilized a loophole to allow companies to pay less into pension funds, therefore reducing corporations’ ability to benefit from tax breaks associated with pension investment. Removing that incentive to invest in Americans themselves, forces corporations to pay a larger share of taxes.
Let’s assume, for the moment, that we did fully fund the highway trust fund in order to at least maintain our nation’s interstates. In addition we have also invested abroad and provided water and sanitation to all those who need it. What have we spent in our grand total so far? $438.5 billion. We still have more than $5500 billion remaining in our budget! Why did we undertake two wars and create brand new enemies abroad instead of investing in helping others, while improving ourselves?!?