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Editorial July 2, 2009  RSS feed


As you fire up the grill, or get ready to go to the beach or country for a picnic on the Fourth of July, just stop and ask yourself two questions.

How many people do I know have lost their job this year?

How many people do I know have gotten a job through the much-touted stimulus package?

You can bet that there were more losses than gains.

Reportedly, there are 14 million people unemployed. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, "if you add to the unemployed individuals those who are working part-time but would like to work full-time, and those who want jobs but have become discouraged and stopped looking, you get an underutilization rate that is truly alarming. Nearly 30 million working age individuals were underutilized in May 2009, the largest number in our nation's history."

When the $787 billion economic stimulus bill was passed in February, President Barack Obama stated, "Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector—jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit."

So far, there hasn't been a sign on any of the bridges, roadways or highways that says, "This roadway is being replaced or repaired with 2009 economic stimulus money."

Many, if not most, of these structures are in one form of disrepair or another. Yet every year, they are patched together in one spot while another spot deteriorates.

In 1956, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congress enacted the Federal-Aid Highway Act, creating an interstate system that now consists of nearly 47,000 miles of highway.

This project employed thousands of workers and provided a link between city and suburb that remains an essential characteristic of American life in 2009.

However, these highways are long past their shelf life, needing to be rebuilt and expanded. Has anyone heard a word from any elected official either at the federal, state or municipal level on the planned reconstruction of the overused highway system in New York?

And heaven help us if any remaking of existing structures takes as long as the Second Avenue subway project.

Along with highways, there is the ever-increasing need for a stable, well-organized electrical grid. Back in the Eisenhower days, the U.S. was a manufacturing society that depended on interstate commerce for its economic growth.

For that industrial country, the interstate was critical. Today, our growth is dependent on an information economy that relies on electricity.

All this reconstruction should definitely create jobs. But will the college graduates who advanced their education in anticipation of well-paying, white-collar jobs be content to work a pick-axe and shovel, side-by-side with the high school dropout or the immigrant—legal or illegal—just to earn a paycheck?