July 7, 2011
Finding the path to good jobs and the American Dream
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains that our public investment deficit threatens our country’s future prosperity far more than our current budget deficit.
“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 worlds best system of interstate highways as well as public transportation. 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 Americans 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 of public investment that imperils our future more than our 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 tuition are so high that many families can no longer afford college. Meanwhile water and sewer systems are old and breaking, many parks are neglected and closed. Our roads are clogged, traffic jams claiming more and more of our time, bridges are old and in need of repair. We’re almost becoming a third world nation.
“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 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.”
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