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Posted by on Sep 15, 2011 in Economy, Politics | 3 comments

The Cost of Everything and the Value of Nothing

What is truly remarkable about the politics of the early 21st century is how the difference between a cost and an investment has been undermined. This week, the Institute on Research for Public Policy released a report which estimated that it would take $200 billion to repair Canada’s crumbling infrastructure.

And, in Newsweek, Michael Tomasky reports that — in the United States — the need for infrastructure investment is critical:

The most recent infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the United States a D overall, including bleak marks in 15 categories ranging from roads (D-minus) to schools and transit (both D’s) to bridges (C). The society calls for $2.2 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next five years.

More importantly, writes Tomasky, public support for such investment is strong:

. . . support for such investments among the general public is broad and deep and crosses ideological boundaries, notes Nicholas Turner, who heads transportation initiatives for the Rockefeller Foundation. “The bipartisan support was stunning,” Turner says. In a poll the foundation commissioned in February, even 59 percent of Tea Party supporters considered infrastructure investment to be vital. But as long as Barack Obama is for it, the Tea Partiers in Washington will fight it.

As a baby boomer, I benefited from government policies which enabled my father — a World War II veteran — to get a university education. And I benefited from policies which invested in my own education — from kindergarten to university.

There was a time when governments — both liberal and conservative — knew an investment when they saw it. These days, governments of all stripes seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Owen Gray grew up in Montreal, where he received a B. A. from Concordia University. After crossing the border and completing a Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, he returned to Canada, married, raised a family and taught high school for 32 years. Now retired, he lives — with his wife and youngest son — on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. This post is cross posted from his blog.