But even that will only meet basic needs. We also need a long-term strategy that invests in our infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and transit systems. Our global competitors understand this, and have been directing billions of dollars into 21st century transportation networks that have enhanced their own economic standing. The numbers tell the story. In 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked America’s infrastructure number 1 in economic competitiveness. Today our rank has fallen to number 16.

So what can we do to turn things around?

First and foremost, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from and use the progress that has been made by other countries. We can leverage public resources, with private sector dollars to maximize investment in projects, which facilitate the mobility and exchange of goods and services, the backbone of economic growth.

Second, we must formulate a national transportation policy, which sets clear criteria for achieving the economic objectives necessary to growth and prosperity, so sorely needed in our country today. Two decades into the 21st century, Americans deserve better than outdated transportation systems and unreliable electric grids. Washington must improve the way it works with regional, state, and local leadership embracing private sector solutions when feasible.

What we’re talking about is the main frame of a modern society; the foundation of a nation’s health, security, and prosperity. We must get serious about maintaining and modernizing our electric grid, as well as our roads, rails and runways. It is only with that kind of vigilance that we can avoid the consequences of a world, literally thrown back to the Dark Ages - the brutal primitive world of Revolution. What we do or fail to do now is not about the past, it is about our future.

Rendell is co-chair of Building America's Future - a national and bipartisan coalition dedicated to smart infrastructure investment and reform.