We got a D+!
The gang at USA Today took time off its busy schedule of preparing brightly colored infographics to write a very interesting story on the economic isolation of southern West Virginia. You should read it. Here’s why:
This is a corner of the country that basically remains dominated by the declining coal industry and voted to elect President Donald Trump, who coincidentally promised to revive coal’s fortunes and build a bunch of highways.
Now these people are expecting Trump to bring back coal. But, according to USA Today, they’re just as eager (if not more) for Trump to run an Interstate through the coalfields and connect backwoods communities in West By God to the national economy. Says one elected official in Wyoming County, West Virginia:
“Interstates are the roads, canals and railroads of our early history, all rolled into one. If you don’t have them, you can’t develop.”
So consider this West Virginia story an appetizer (I like appetizers, look at all of these appetizers) to today’s news: The American Society of Civil Engineers has released its latest “report card” on the state of our domestic infrastructure, and it was bad. America got a D+, which was my grade in high school chemistry.
There are a lot of ways to parse the numbers therein, but here’s a good, big, fat and alarming stat: If we don’t start fixing our underfunded and crumbling infrastructure, the United States will lose out on $3.9 trillion in economic activity by 2025.
That’s approximately the annual gross domestic product of Germany.
So look, guys. President Trump won election on a campaign of big promises. Yeah, he promised a coal revival, and for a corner of the country where coal is ensconced that’s a big deal. Looks like the Trump administration is earnestly getting to work on that.
But, as that Wyoming County commissioner implied earlier: an interstate (read: infrastructure investment) would diversify his local economy, and thereby improve the financial lot of the Trump voters there.
So I propose the president focus on this other promise: $1 trillion in infrastructure investments over a decade. Passing such a big, bipartisan policy full of Buy America requirements (which is yet another Trump promise) is something worthy of his political capital.
It’s instead being spent on other things. The president should focus on infrastructure now.