In the last thirty years, our nation has experienced a paradox of productivity and progress. Productivity, driven by extraordinary growth in technology and an increased push towards consumption, has nearly tripled. Meanwhile social, environmental, and educational progress has stalled.
Panic over our rising national debt receives ample attention in Congress and in the media, and deficit spending is often branded as the greatest threat to our nation's future. While ignoring our fiscal challenges could undermine our security and economic flexibility, the ongoing lack of investment in American infrastructure and workers has and continues to severely threaten our competitiveness and future economic prosperity.
Social Infrastructure Needs:
- The U.S. ranks 27th—nearly last—among developed countries when it comes to investments in education, health care and other vital social needs.
- Most developed nations have recognized that affordable childcare is a necessity for working parents and a key investment in the cognitive and social development of children. In 2005, the U.S. spent only 0.4 percent of GDP on early childcare and education, ranking 28th out of 37 countries.
- Thirty-nine percent of American children age three to five were not enrolled in any type of nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten in 2008.
Physical Infrastructure Needs:
- Thirty-three percent of U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre conditions.
- Poor road quality is a major factor in congestion and traffic accidents. Americans spend more than 4 billion hours a year stuck in traffic—costing more than $78.2 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs.
- About 12 percent of our nation’s bridges are structurally deficient, and about 16 percent are functionally obsolete. The day-to-day impact of faulty bridges comes in traffic delays, congestion, detours for commuters, and the routine rerouting of trucks and emergency vehicles.
- As of 2009, the U.S. ranks first in the world in terms of broadband usage. But our networks are much slower than other advanced nations—ranking 23th in download speed.
- We need to invest in new sources of power. In 2007, fossil fuels made up 86 percent of the United States’ total primary energy supply, while alternative energy sources accounted for just 14 percent.
- In 2009, China invested nearly $35 billion in clean energy, close to double the $19 billion invested by the U.S. The gap is the result of low federal investment: in terms of private equity and venture capital, we lead the world in dollars devoted finding alternative energy sources. As a percentage of GDP, our public spending ranked eleventh among G-20 countries in 2009. Spain, for example, invested five times more, and China and the United Kingdom three times more.