Infrastructure is the one issue Washington needs to focus on
At a time when distrust and division dominate the headlines, a kitchen table issue such as infrastructure remains our best hope for bridging divides, advancing our country, and renewing faith in elected officials.
As the former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a Pennsylvania Republican, we also believe it paves a strong path to electoral success in the states that will decide the next election. Incumbents and candidates alike who fail to own this national issue do so to their own detriment. While both sides of the aisle profess their commitment to getting the job done on infrastructure, Americans see nothing but false starts and failed negotiations time and time again. Infrastructure Week is a punchline, like the new Groundhog Day.
Presidents Obama and President Trump each vowed to seize the opportunity to rebuild and advance our country. Instead, President Obama tempered the infrastructure investments in the Recovery Act to accommodate fiscal concerns, and President Trump spent his inaugural political capital on repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It is no wonder Americans have grown so cynical of the leaders they elected.
According to a new poll from Build Together, a nonpartisan organization for which we both serve as advisers, 86 percent of respondents across six swing states believe that Washington politicians in both parties are putting their own interests ahead of what is best for the country by refusing to invest in our infrastructure. The poll found 90 percent feel that they never know how or where taxpayer money is going to be spent when politicians on Capitol Hill talk about investing in infrastructure.
However, across the aisle and around the country, Build Together also found these same voters remain hungry for both parties to come together and get the job done on infrastructure, and they overwhelmingly support a bold plan that is responsive to local needs. The poll found 91 percent of voters in Colorado and Pennsylvania, 93 percent of voters in Florida, and 96 percent of voters in Iowa support a plan that would invest trillions of dollars over the next decade to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure for the 21st century. In six battleground states, the poll found 89 percent of voters agree that infrastructure is a unique opportunity for politicians to set aside partisan debates and work together on this critical issue.
The poll also found a majority of voters of any party affiliation in these battleground states are willing to support bold federal investments in our infrastructure, without significant variation among potential pay fors. But in order to break the Groundhog Day cycle, shift the paradigm, and finally get a package across the finish line that voters are willing to pay for, lawmakers must craft a vision that responds to the immediate human consequences of our failing infrastructure and merits public trust that the investment will be wisely spent and guided by local community needs.
Today, the more we look for lead in our pipes or chemicals in our drinking water, the more we continue to find. Too many rural communities lack standard broadband access and download speeds. Our limited public transportation options restrict access to jobs, child care, and health care. Our outdated ports and air traffic control systems restrict commerce and jeopardize national security. Within these challenges comes the great opportunity to unite a diverse coalition of interests on the left and the right capable of spurring Washington to enact a comprehensive vision that responds to everyday needs to the benefit of all Americans.
On the left, progressives must recognize the transformative opportunity to further economic opportunity and environmental equity through a comprehensive infrastructure package. On the right, conservatives must adequately prioritize this issue, the lifeblood of commerce and key to global competitiveness, on par with taxes and deregulation. Voters must show their leaders the political consequences of inaction on this.
The battleground states that will decide the 2020 election, including Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, and Texas, are on the front lines of our failing infrastructure. To any candidate for office, this challenge presents an opportunity that should not go to waste.
Steve Israel served in Congress as a Democratic representative from New York. Ryan Costello served in Congress as a Republican representative from Pennsylvania. They now both serve as advisers to Build Together.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.