Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It.

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate.Will fixing the infrastructure add to the deficit? Not really, because it already is an expense that we know will have to be made, or else. If the sewer systems and waterworks break down, we start dying. If bridges collapse, we die too. That isn’t even mentioning the increasing costs in energy and commerce caused by a decaying transportation system. The sooner we pay for it, the less it will cost, so sooner is per se better for the economy, and it is perfect timing given the employment crisis.

My household is financially strapped right now, and we are pinching pennies…but there’s a hole in the roof and the house is overdue for painting. If we delay these repairs and maintenance tasks much longer, my home is at risk…I have to pay for them somehow; I have no choice. Luckily, I don’t have to get the decision to do it past Eric Cantor; luckily, I haven’t put my family 14 million in debt, either.

Yes, Obama better have a way to pay for it, with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes. If he plays politics with the proposal by making it impossible for the GOP to support (as some pundits, like the Post’s Eugene Robinson, have advised), shame on him. This has to be paid for, but it also has to be done…just like painting my house.

If Obama puts a fair, reasonable, relatively pork-free proposal on the table, Republicans would be despicably unethical to reject it. The spending-cutting arguments simply don’t apply to this. Maintaining roads, bridges, sewers and the rest is a core government function—Adam Smith knew it, Jefferson knew it; even Ron Paul would admit it. (Ronald Reagan knew it too, and still didn’t do his duty by insisting on infrastructure repair. The last U.S. President who met his infrastructure obligations was Eisenhower. Disgraceful. ) The infrastructure is our home, and it is falling apart around our ears. Refusing to pay for repairs is like declaring dental care to be a luxury, and letting your family’s teeth fall out.

Agreed: that serious infrastructure repair was minimal in the original stimulus package was one of the Obama Administration’s biggest and least forgivable mistakes, but that is water under the rotting bridge. Fix our roof, Mr. President. It’s an easy solution; jobs are a bonus. If the Republicans won’t support that, they are voting to send us back to the caves.

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