As part of our current section in AP Government on lobbying in the United States, my teacher came up with the marvel idea that we as students would become the lobbyists. Our assignment was to find an interest group which catered to some passion of ours and essentially become the voice of that interest group. Once we had done this, we would present ourselves and our group to the class and then propose legislation that we wished to be passed by Congress. At first I took little interest to this assignment as I (as well of many of my piers) have a general dislike and mistrust of interest groups. But this changed after I came across an organization known as Building America’s Future Education Fund (BAFEF). This group speaks directly to my passion for transportation and infrastructure and does so in an educated, professional, and persuasive manner.
The first thing which sets BAFEF apart from many other advocacy groups is that is has a very positive reputation as being a truthful and informed resource to report factual information and propose legislation. BAFEF is often quoted by congressional lawmakers and is actually co-chaired by persons who are well known for their connection to this issue; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. However, the main focus of this blog post is not on the organization itself, but a document which BAFEF produced last year. This cumbersome 46 page document is a report titled Building America’s Future-Falling Apart and Falling Behind which sought an explanation as to why the World Economic Forum ranked U.S. Infrastructure #1 in 2005 and then seven short years later bring that number to 14th in 2012. What got me so interested in this report and made it blog worthy was the fact that backs up every statement with fact (referenced of course) and provides a clear cut analysis of the problem, the causes of the problem, the consequences of the problem, and the proposed solution(s).
The first section, which analyzes the many problems surrounding our infrastructure and its root causes, comes to the ultimate conclusion that our current predicament is the result of Congresses inability to pass any major legislation. Legislators do not have the will to propose any major spending bill and simply pass short term stop gap measures. And infrastructure, like every other facet of American life in recent years, suffers because of it. The second chapter looks at how other countries do things differently with their infrastructure and how the results compare to that of the United States. This was definitely the most depressing chapter as it shows how investment in national infrastructure has no real cause for opposition in the United States. High speed rail is a one major focus in this chapter and one example which completely staggered me was a comparison between the train systems between China and the U.S.. A current train in the United States will travel from New York to Chicago (711 miles) in 17 hours while a standard Chinese High Speed Rail will travel from Beijing to Shanghai (819 miles) in 5 hours. China has spent 3.3 trillion US dollars on infrastructure projects since 2000. Even Morocco is spending more on its High Speed Rail system than the United States.
All of these staggering numbers and comparisons made me ask the question “Don’t we have a Department of Transportation that is supposed to be working on this stuff?” This report does touch on this question and answers it as it does in the beginning of the report; that progress is slave to politics and too often the DOT finds itself catering to a politician’s local needs rather than focusing on a national/regional plan. This solution? Building America’s Future Educational Fund proposes legislation (as that which I am proposing in my own lobby) that will create an independent National Infrastructure Bank that will have the autonomy to focus solely on national infrastructure (this is the national government after all) and do so using a combination of federal dollars and private equity. In the current political atmosphere, there seems no other option than to simply get decisions as far away from the decision makers as possible.
I HIGHLY encourage my readers to take a look at this report, even if it is not your passion as it is mine, an educated populous is the first step…..