A lot of talk about building that wall for the past few years. A LOT. In fact, this wall – or the idea of it – has nearly rent our land apart, even as precious little has been built.
Whatever you think about the wall, you might have noticed in your own town some more immediate necessities. And some, you might never think about—as long as they’re working. How do we return America to greatness? Let’s start by looking down.
The task of re-engineering needs to focus on all the underlying structures in order to build great things above, on the ground—including walls. We depend on water, air, roads, bridges, tunnels, and the dirt beneath our feet. Every one of those resources is essential, regardless of “identity politics,” race, class, gender, sexual preference, or political persuasion.
Whether we’re teenage runaways or Wall Street CEOs, we need those basic structures in place before we can even begin to work on the higher goals, like better jobs, education, and harmony among races and genders.
Everybody needs clean water (and wastewater that goes away and is processed quickly and safely); all people need good roadways to transport the food they eat and the goods they depend upon; everybody needs clean air to breathe and clean soil in which to grow crops. Those are our basic needs. We tend to take them for granted until bitches like Katrina, Sandy, or Osama bin Laden swipe them off the map for a time.
They’re absolutely essential.
And make no mistake—they are all about our national security. As much or more as any wall to keep illegal foreigners from hopping our border.
The good news is we don’t need a ton of new sewers, airports, bridges, tunnels, and roads. We just need massive maintenance done on much of our extant, aging infrastructure. The bad news is it’s going to cost trillions. How do we pay for that?
It’s as contentious as funding for the wall.
Back during the Great Depression, FDR instituted the WPA, employing 8.5 million Americans over a span of eight years to bring electricity to the South; improve our roads, waterways, and utilities; distribute food and clothing; educate the masses; and construct and improve countless buildings, trails, tunnels, dams, bridges, and other structures. It was costly, but the government undertook the massive project out of sheer necessity, while the business community was struggling to recover. No one else could do what needed to be done, so the federal government stepped in.
Today, though, the economy hasn’t been great for many middle-class households who grapple to pay their mortgages and pay off their student debts. But the business community—meaning big biz—has largely prospered. Many American corporations have profited in the 10+ years since the Wall Street crash, and the people at the top have brought home record paychecks and bonuses.
So clearly, despite economic stagnation among the poor and middle class, it wouldn’t be appropriate to think of this period as akin to the Great Depression; in fact, it might not even be stretching the term to call these past few years a recession proper. And since Trump’s tenure, many aspects of the economy are booming.
So even though we have a lot of problems with our infrastructure, it doesn’t follow that the government should step in to fix them. The WPA was an emergency measure at a time without any other options; America today has its fair share of emergencies, but the business community is thriving, so it simply doesn’t need a government bailout. We cannot and should not rely on the government alone for this kind of progress. Instead, we have to look for public-private partnership (P3) opportunities—for business leaders to chip in with their talent, money, and human resources.
Maybe that’s even the solution to our wall conundrum.