Here’s another one: Other nations will reap the benefits if we continue to drag our feet.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and nine Members of Congress recently traveled to China, where they met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and discussed a variety of issues — including China’s plans to rebuild its infrastructure. According to a report from the state-run news agency Xinhua:
Li told the delegates that there is a big gap between eastern and western China in terms of transportation infrastructure. China will strengthen infrastructure construction in central and western areas while promoting exports in technology and high-speed railway and highway equipment.
China is willing to join the United States in upgrading transportation infrastructure, he said.”
There are a couple of lessons we can learn here.
First, while America delays making much-needed infrastructure improvements, China is making a conscious decision to upgrade its own infrastructure, because China is well aware that a strong infrastructure is good for its bottom line. As Laura Tyson writes just today in the World Economic Forum: “Most economists agree that underinvesting in infrastructure is economically unwise and fiscally irresponsible.”
Sustained infrastructure investments are attractive to companies looking to open factories and facilities — they want to set up shop in places where they can easily create and ship their products, after all. To remain competitive, the United States simply must invest to fix its roads, bridges, ports and railways. Otherwise, other nations will take advantage.
Second, as China rebuilds its own infrastructure, it is building significant manufacturing capacity, sometimes in areas where the United States hasn’t even gotten started.
As noted in the Xinhua report, China is building significant manufacturing capacity by building high-speed rail. Meanwhile, the United States isn’t even trying that hard to invest to build high-speed rail (even though we are in dire need of it.)
By ignoring this key infrastructure investment, we are ceding significant capacity and market share. Countries like China are primed to take advantage.
The United States needs to make infrastructure investments to remain competitive with countries like China. We also need to make sure that we capitalize on these investments by ensuring U.S. workers and domestic firms get the first shot at the business.