In case you missed it, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — the non-partisan office that provides budget and economic analysis to Congress — issued a report this week suggesting ways that Congress might reduce our current, historically high budget deficit. Surely they recommended rolling back outsized corporate tax cuts, and didn’t suggest something as absurd as scaling back highway funding and ending all federal investments in transit, intercity passenger rail and air travel, and airport improvements, right?
Let me be crystal clear: our nation’s infrastructure is our economic competitive advantage in a global economy. The frontline workers who design, build, operate, and maintain our infrastructure ensure that small business owners can keep the doors open and their employees paid. They move the most productive workforce in the world to and from their jobs safely and efficiently each day. They provide a lifeline to rural communities that too often feel like they are being left behind. They deliver our mail. They get our kids to school. They fly our airplanes and keep our passengers safe and comfortable. They move the goods we buy on and off of ships, and operate the trains that carry them to every corner of our country.
What’s more, we know as a matter of fact, that investing in infrastructure has one of the greatest multiplier effects in federal spending. The CBO’s own estimates state that for every dollar our government invests in infrastructure, we can expect up to $2.50 in GDP growth. Not to mention that for every billion dollars we invest into our must-have infrastructure, an additional 21,000 jobs are created across multiple sectors of our economy.
These aren’t just any jobs. Because of high union density in transportation and infrastructure, working people in these sectors enjoy higher pay, better benefits, safer working conditions, and stronger job security than their non-union counterparts (the CBO also suggests eliminating the prevailing wage requirements that ensure the high quality of those jobs — yet another disastrous proposal in this report). Considering wages for workers have flatlined, these are exactly the kinds of jobs and worker protections we need right now.
So when someone tells me that we are going to balance our budget on the backs of America’s working families, I say this: you have got to be kidding me.
To be sure, this isn’t the first assault we have seen on transportation spending. The current Administration has proposed similar cuts in each of their annual budget proposals (more commonly known as “the door stop” in most Congressional offices). And routinely, Congress does the right thing by ignoring them, because they understand that our 100-year-old tunnels, aging transit systems, and crowded airports cannot keep pace with the growing demands of our economy without additional investment. Put simply: the CBO has a problem if it thinks the answer to our economic woes is arbitrarily cutting the very services that drive our economy. It is the legislative equivalent of stabbing yourself in the foot and then asking why you’re bleeding.
So once again, transportation labor calls on Congress to ignore these disastrous recommendations, and to do the right thing for working people, our country, and our economy.
If you want to have a real discussion about the budget, treat the conversation with the seriousness it deserves and understand how devastating these cuts would be to America’s working families and to our nation’s long-term economic wellbeing.