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NYTimes Asks “Can America Still Build Big?” The Answer Is Yes…. IF

February 25, 2019

Today’s NYTimes features an article by Thomas Fuller, Jennifer Medina and Conor Dougherty that suggests the days of huge infrastructure investments are over in our country. Why? Here’s one answer: we’ve bought into the Reagan notion that government is the problem and subsequently lost confidence in government in general:

“California built the world’s greatest water conveyance system, one of the great highway systems, a great university system,” said Dan Richard, who stepped down as chairman of the rail project’s board of directors on Tuesday. “When did we lose our confidence in our ability to do this stuff?”

And here’s another answer: we’ve invested in too much in projects that require too many logistical challenges which, in turn, leads to too many opportunities for lawsuits which, in turn. protracts the time required to complete the projects thereby adding to their costs. The project that Fuller, Medina, and Dougherty focus on is the high speed rail project in California… a project that required land acquisition, environmental waivers, and lots of planning by lots of bureaucrats. The sad reality is that had this money been used to build sold farms on empty lots or on rooftops in economically depressed cities like Fresno it could have generated lots of cheap electrical power which, in turn, could have attracted businesses and promoted the use of electric cars. Or the money could have been spent to make it possible to use existing highways to operate electric powered driverless trucks and buses.

And since this blog is primarily about education, here’s another idea: the money could have been used to refurbish or replace the scores of dilapidated public schools in the state that need repairs, money that could have been readily spent to good ends.

I believe we CAN continue to think big… but we need to do so by accepting the reality that there are many big projects that do not require complicated plans, plans that invariably result in NIMBY protests that “prove” that government can’t work.

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