Infrastructure Week Has Become a Joke, and That’s a Big Mistake.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

It’s Infrastructure Week. No, you guys, for reals though!

The concept of “Infrastructure Week” has become a bit of a joke here in the D.C. swamp, since it seems like every single time the White House intends to focus on infrastructure, there’s a big distraction.

But it actually is Infrastructure Week this time. Hundreds of organizations —big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, labor leaders like the AFL-CIO, and even good old AAM — are taking part in the official advocacy effort to push for major investment in our nation’s roads, bridges, public transit, ports, railways, airports, pipelines, and more.

There’s even a hashtag: #TimetoBuild.

But sadly, the party was spoiled before it even began. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced last week there is not likely to be an infrastructure bill this year (something Senate Democrats had a bit of fun with):

In all seriousness, there’s a reason why the issue of infrastructure keeps coming up: America’s infrastructure is in bad shape. Like, we’re talking really bad.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a D+ grade. There are more than 56,000 bridges across the United States that are structurally deficient, an especially troubling stat considering there are 188 million trips across these bridges each day. U.S. airports are notoriously overcrowded and unable to keep up with demand; our public transit systems are plagued by overdue maintenance and underinvestment; and our water pipelines are so outdated that there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks every year.

And don’t get us started on the mess that is our hazardous waste. It’s not comforting.

Everybody seems to understand that infrastructure is a big problem (there aren’t many issues that would bring the Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO together, after all).

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton even tried to outgun each other on how much money they would spend to repair infrastructure. After Trump took office, he repeatedly said infrastructure would be one of his top priorities.

Two years later, nothing has been done. It’s really a lost opportunity.

Making a major investment in infrastructure would provide a big boost to our economy and create jobs — especially if Buy America preferences are applied (another thing Trump pledged to do).

Duke University researchers estimated in a 2014 report that a long-term transportation bill worth $114 billion annually would create 2.5 million new jobs; each $1 billion in investment creates 21,000 new jobs. And every dollar invested would generate $3.5+ in return.

Inaction, meanwhile, has cost over 900,000 jobs and is creating a drag on the economy (aside from the obvious dangers that delaying repair presents).

And yet here we are. Another Infrastructure Week has been met with more distractions from the White House’s resident steak salesman (h/t Matt McMullan). Another Infrastructure Week will likely go by without any real progress made on infrastructure. Another lost opportunity to fix some real world problems, create millions of jobs and uplift the economy.

***

Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

More ...

A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder