In the summer of 2007, I drove across a bridge in Minneapolis that spanned the Mississippi river. It was slow going because road construction narrowed it to one lane in each direction. Less than 24 hours after I crossed, the bridge fell into the river killing 13 people and injuring another 145 people.
How did Minnesota respond? They started fixing their bridges. And when the economy collapsed a year later? They kept on fixing them. They weren’t about to wait for another bridge collapse, regardless of the economy.
Not only that but the Twin Cities kept on schedule an ambitious light-rail project that will eventually connect all of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Austerity did not take hold in Minnesota. Instead they invested in infrastructure and jobs programs.
The result? The Land of Lakes saw less unemployment and recently recouped all of the job losses from the recession. While the recovery has been uneven, with urban areas out-pacing rural ones, the economy is growing faster than the nation as a whole and its unemployment rate is 5.6%.
North Carolina, on the other hand, is in the grip of Republicans bound and determine to undermine any job growth while our infrastructure withers. They say we can’t afford to fix it now, even though interest rates are at historic lows. If not now, when?
The result? One of the poorest recoveries in the country. Our unemployment rate is 8.9%, 47th in the nation, and 34 counties still have double digit unemployment. Austerity failed in Europe and it’s failing here.
The American Society of Engineers gave North Carolina’s overall infrastructure a C grade, recommending investments in bridges and, particularly, dams. The legislature should heed the warnings, put people back to work and prepare us for the future. Unfortunately, they seem fixated on cutting taxes for the rich, and slashing, not raising, revenue.
We’ll continue to crawl out of recession while other states zoom past us. And we’ll ignore our infrastructure problems until one of our bridges collapses or dams bursts. What a way to run a government.