Mr. President, We Need a 10-Year Plan

By Summers, Lawrence | Newsweek, September 19, 2011 | Go to article overview

Mr. President, We Need a 10-Year Plan


Summers, Lawrence, Newsweek


Byline: Lawrence Summers

America is collapsing. Shovel-ready projects won't cut it, says Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary.

We need not a one-year but a 10-year commitment to rebuilding the country. President Obama's jobs speech focused where it needed to--but it is only a start. America is underperforming. Millions are out of work, and tens of millions have depressed incomes. Obama was clear about what everyone, from storekeepers to economists, from corporate CEOs to unemployed workers, knows: until there is more demand for their products, firms will not hire more workers.

The president was right to focus on the most obvious idea for creating demand and putting people back to work at a moment like this: rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure. If a moment when the government can borrow for 10 years at less than 2 percent, when unemployment among construction workers is well into double digits, and when the price of building materials is depressed is not the moment for infrastructure investment, it is hard to imagine when that time will come. Moreover, much of the cost of infrastructure investment is illusory if those hired would otherwise be collecting unemployment insurance.

There will always be debate among experts about the returns to public investment in infrastructure. Some cite studies suggesting that road-maintenance projects delayed even two years can become six times as expensive later. …

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