A National Bank to Repair Our Crumbling Infrastructure and Create Millions of New Jobs
By ALPHECCA MUTTARDY
Elected officials have not yet focused on a concrete plan for how to pay for our pressing infrastructure needs, nor to create millions of jobs to replace those lost on account of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress to create a National Infrastructure Bank—HR 6422—does both.
Infrastructure Funding at a 70 Year Low
Our nation’s spending on public infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level in 70 years, or 2.5 percent of the GDP. That’s half the comparable level in Europe, and one-third the level in China. As a result, productivity, investment, and manufacturing have collapsed, and we are losing our world-wide competitive edge.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that $4.6 trillion is needed just to repair our infrastructure. Of that, $2.1 trillion is currently needed for unmet funding of roads, bridges, mass transit, electricity grids, schools, dams, ports, airports, rail, water, and more. In addition, we need high speed rail, complete broadband, and affordable housing, as well as major water projects to combat flooding and produce more electricity.
All of these projects require a steady source of long-term funding and the latest technologies for optimal efficiency and minimum environmental impact. Along with these pressing infrastructure needs, our country confronts an employment crisis. The new bank would allow the country to address both these challenges.
As of June 2020, 44 million workers had filed first-time unemployment claims since mid-March, and 18 million were counted as officially unemployed. What’s worse, these numbers may be underestimates, as layoffs continue on account of COVID-19 re-closings, and more businesses falter due to financial stress.
A significant number of the lost jobs will not return, even after the economy fully opens up. Latest forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, International Monetary Fund, and top economists suggest that the ultimate impact of the economic crash will be like nothing we have seen in our nation’s history.
We must prepare now to address these challenges by enacting a new National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) that invests at least $4 trillion in infrastructure, not merely to revive the old economy but to create a new, sustainable one.
The proposed NIB would:
- create an independent government-owned, depository/lending bank with full disclosure of its expenditures.
- provide capitalization through existing, privately-owned Treasuries (the same method as four NIBs in our nation’s past).
- lend up to $4 trillion with well-targeted project selection.
- charge participants an affordable 2 percent annual interest rate for loans. Earnings would provide the government with $80 billion a year in dividends and coverage for overhead costs.
- Provide flexible loan repayment for states, counties, cities, utilities, authorities, and cooperatives. Repayments could be drawn from general revenues, special revenues, or user fees.
Significantly, the infrastructure bank is a politically attractive proposal: The new institution would be self-funded. The federal government would not have to assume any new debt or adopt new taxes to fund infrastructure projects.
Benefits of Infrastructure Funding
The expected benefits of the bank would include:
- re-vitalizing our crumbling infrastructure: This would lead to less traffic congestion and CO2 pollution; lead-free water; state-of-the-art schools, affordable housing, and adequate funding for infrastructure projects in every single state.
- helping workers: The bank would create millions of jobs paying Davis-Bacon wages. It would allow for the re-hiring of millions of Americans now unemployed and provide them with training for permanent construction occupations with benefits.
- supporting businesses: The bank would pour billions of dollars into spending on construction and manufacturing, boosting business productivity and consumer demand.
- stimulating the economy: The infrastructure investment would help ensure that the coronavirus recession is V-shaped with a quick recovery, it would help push up long-term growth from an estimated 1.8 percent to 5 percent a year, and it would help end the strain on federal and state budgets by quickly re-employing workers without jobs.
Investments by the NIB would build up a new workforce by re-training workers for permanent occupations, creating an opportunity for the NIB to coordinate with job creation programs like H.R. 1000 in the areas of configuring job training courses and matching workers with construction needs.
Please support the NIB by doing whatever you can to support HR 6422 and create a $4 trillion National Infrastructure Bank right away.
Alphecca Muttardy is a macro-economist with the Coalition for a National Infrastructure Bank and 25-year veteran of the International Monetary Fund. For background on the coalition, go to https://www.nibcoalition.com/
Poor People’s Campaign Digital Rally Exposes the Country’s Political and Economic Injustices
By LOGAN MARTINEZThe Poor People’s Campaign held a digital justice gathering in June that focused on the injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the morally bankrupt narrative of religious nationalism that plague the country’s politics and economy.
Over 50,000 people watched the live broadcast of the Digital Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on the group’s website on June 20. Tens of thousands more viewed the weekend event on Facebook and up to one million, including other media platforms.
The Poor People’s Campaign and its mobilizing partners of more than 200 organizations worked with the campaign to support the event.
The digital assembly shared powerful presentations of poor people telling their stories and inspirational speeches by the Rev. William Barber, the campaign’s co-chair, and other leaders.
The three-hour broadcast was filled by poor and working people telling the extraordinary stories of their lives. A theme song and poem running through the program carried a poignant message: “Someone is hurting my brother and it’s gone on for too long and we won’t be silent anymore.”
The assembly highlighted stories about the struggle for political and economic justice. These included:
- A car caravan demanding unemployment benefits in Florida where a large number of people had yet to receive their checks.
- A Kentucky coal miner with black lung disease who started work in 1968 describing how he has not seen a doctor in 18 years.
- Flight attendants refusing to work because the federal government won’t set safety standards for flying.
- Bartenders in Washington, D.C. living “tip to mouth” on a sub-minimum wage of $4.75 an hour.
The Poor People’s Campaign has produced a must-see video of the rally for political and economic justice. View it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hOLO1kEBzA For more info, visit the campaigns web site at www.PoorPeoplesCampaign.org
Logan Martinez is the outreach coordinator of the National Jobs for All Network (NJFAN). The Jobs for All Outreach Committee is planning to document and record stories of the unemployed in the current crisis. We are asking unemployed workers to record their stories and for people to record stories of the unemployed in their community. If you would like to help, contact: Logan Martinez at [email protected]com
Connecticut State University Faculty Backs the Job Guarantee
The union representing faculty at four Connecticut State University campuses has backed the Jobs for All Pledge that calls for the federal government to enact a Job Guarantee.
At its final regular meeting of the academic year in May, the state council of the Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) unanimously voted to pass a resolution in support of the pledge.
In backing the resolution, CSU-AAUP joins many other labor and social justice organizations across the country in advocating for full employment and a real right to work, a goal of the labor movement for many years.
The Job Guarantee was first endorsed by a local chapter at Southern Connecticut State University at its Feb. 7 executive committee meeting. The local then sought the endorsement of the statewide council.
“It is hoped that these endorsements will aid in the struggle to attain a basic human right to employment in the United States and raise the profile of this movement for a job guarantee among political leaders in the State of Connecticut,” said Stephen Monroe Tomczak, who is the chapter president of the Southern Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors local that supported the original resolution.
Tomczak, who is a member of the union’s state council and also a member of the National Jobs for All Network, had requested the resolution be introduced earlier in the year, but council action was delayed because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The faculty represented by CSU-AAUP work at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.