This election cycle, Americans have a decision to make. Either we can choose to elect those who have proven themselves to have the courage and the foresight to make decisions with the long-term benefit of working people in mind, or we can elect those who are too shortsighted and too captive to special interests to make the calls that will help our nation thrive.
Too many candidates trying to win seats in this election think the answer to improving the U.S. economy is to retrench into partisan positions that at best do nothing, and at worst undermine job creation, permit our infrastructure to fall apart and strip workers of their rights to form and join unions and bargain for fair wages.
It's up to Americans to show Congress that partisan retrenchment is not the answer. Our bridges are falling down, our roads are crumbling, our transit and rail systems can't meet their growing demand, our aviation system is using decades-old technology and our ports suffer from chronic under-investment. We need a Congress that will work together to make our infrastructure work for the next generation and beyond, not squabble over short-term funding bills. We need a Congress that will fight to ensure that more Americans have access to good, safe, middle-class jobs. And we need a Congress that doesn't shy away from telling the truth to the American people that without a fully-funded long-term plan (and yes, that might mean raising the federal gas tax) to invest in our transportation system, our economy will crumble.
But that Congress is in jeopardy. Take a look at the views of Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, for example. Earlier this summer she laid out her vision to improve Michigan's transportation system: gut federal funding. Her devolution plan, cut from the same cloth as those old, tired ideas put forth by extremist groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth, would virtually kill the federal gas tax, all but eliminate the Highway Trust Fund (the key to funding transit and highway investments) and leave the states to fend for themselves. I guess Land missed the memo that it's Republicans who are supposed to hate unfunded mandates. Land claims it's a good plan because "our money that goes to Washington gets run through the bureaucratic ringer (sic) and is returned to us with all sorts of mandates and strings attached." Of course, what the federal program actually ensures is an interconnected transportation system and an efficient passenger and freight network.
Without federal stewardship and funding, the system falls apart, tens of thousands of good jobs evaporating in the process. If the Land vision were adopted we'd find ourselves with 50 mini transportation systems left to the whims of state politics; never mind the fact that the only way our economy works is if a business in Lansing can ship its goods to Dallas knowing that the complex interstate transportation system will reliably get the job done.
Land is just the tip of the iceberg -- there are several members of the flat-earth society running for Senate. Vote any of these women and men into office and we'll find ourselves with a Senate populated by people who think the right path forward is to make it harder to make a living, and who think investing in transportation infrastructure is, in the immortal words of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, nothing more than "liberal spending."
We can do better than that.
With major decisions ahead, like reauthorization bills for our transit and highway system, the Federal Aviation Administration and Amtrak, we can't afford to have a Congress that is unwilling to work together to make the investments we need in our future. This election season, we risk giving up the strides we've made on issues like funding for passenger rail and instead backsliding into the whims of short-sighted politicians who seem to think their mission when they arrive in Washington is to hollow out the middle class.
That's something we simply can't afford.
Too many Americans are suffering in a still-slow economic recovery. And our transportation system and infrastructure are falling apart because we've allowed "investment" to become a dirty word in Washington. The last thing we need is to perpetuate these problems by electing individuals who parade into Washington to kill long-term investment initiatives that in turn will idle millions of good jobs. We need Americans to show up on Election Day ready to send a clear message: that America rejects this dangerous no-growth model for our economy.