With unemployment still extremely high and the cost for the federal government to borrow so low it is practically free, I would like to offer up my own jobs plan. It is called the “taking care of our shit initiative,” or as Wolf Blitzer might describe it, the “good jobs for sewer infrastructure” program. The objective of the program would be quite literally to put people to work upgrading the systems that take care of our human waste problems.
The plan is simple and straight forward. The federal government borrows money very cheaply and gives it to local governments to replace any water lines, purification plants, sewer pipes, and/or waste treatment systems that are over 40 years old. About a $200 billion investment would probably be a good start.
This is a massive investment we have been needing to make for years. The current state of the waste treatment infrastructure in this country is both terrible and frankly disgusting. In their 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded both our drinking water and waste water systems as D-. In places like Vermont basically every town need to replace at least part of their waste treatment system; many of them were installed over a century ago.
Every year billions of gallons of waste water end up in our rivers and lakes. The poor state of our water is both economically wasteful, dangerous to our health and bad for the environment.
Water/sewer systems are essential infrastructure. They also tend to have a very long productive lives. That is why one of the best things we can currently do, now that the cost of borrowing is so low and labor is so plentiful, is to invest in infrastructure improvements that we’ll be needing for decades to come.
The added benefit of the “taking care of our shit initiative” is that it’s easy to explain and sell politically. Every region in the country has miles of sewers that could use upgrading. Physically digging up the ground to replace or repair pipes is very labor intensive, which is good for the jobs creation. No one likes the idea that their poop along with neighbors poop is getting dumped untreated in a river near them. Once you show people that the pipes in their city are often a century old, the need to eventually hire some one relatively soon to replace them becomes obvious.
Sadly, despite it being a really great idea I don’t think the Democratic party will rally around the taking care of our shit initiative. But it’s important to offer up ideas and make it clear it’s actually very easy to create a big jobs program that’s obviously worthwhile, simple to explain and effective. The reason America has millions of unemployed is not due to the lack of solutions but due simply to the lack of will on the part of politicians to do what obviously needs to be done.