~ Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the need for public investment to maintain America's prosperity:
America used to invest a big portion of our economy in the future prosperity of all Americans. We built excellent public schools; offered almost free public higher education to everyone who qualified. We built the world's best system of interstate highways, as well as public transportation.Straight out of the the Keynesian playbook, and drawing on what has empirically been effective in the past. Unfortunately, too many care little for the truth. Can they not handle it? Or do they accrue more money and power by pretending?
We invested in public health, with state of the art water and sewer systems, and wonderful parks, and public recreation. And basic research, that got us to the moon.
Not only did these improve the quality of life of Americans at the time, but they also made Amercians more productive in future years. They built our joint prosperity. We're still living off these public investments.
But in recent years public investment has slowed, as a portion of our economy, and now we have a deficit in public investment that imperils our future more than does our future budget deficit.
In many states and cities 30 or more kids are being crowded into classrooms; preschool and after-school programs have been cut; courses like music and art are gone; even gym is gone. Public higher education is being starved. Fees and tuitions are so high many families can no longer afford college.
Meanwhile water and sewer systems are now old and breaking. Many of our parks are neglected or closed. Our roads are clogged; traffic jams claiming more and more of our time. Bridges old and need of repair--we are almost becoming a Third World nation.
And which nation is now doing the equivalent of getting to the moon? That is, developing the new, non-carbon energy technologies of the future? Well, it's not us--it's China.
Now some say we can no longer afford to make these investments because we have to cut public budgets and give tax breaks to the rich.
The truth is the reverse. We can't afford not to make these investments. And the rich have to pay their fair share.
You see money is global; it goes wherever around the world it can get the highest return.
The only asset we have in America that's unique to America is our people. Our brains, our public health, our public research and our infrastructure. If we don't invest in these, we threaten our future prosperity. And that of our kids, and our grandkids.