As if she heard my conversations with some area political junkies (I’ve been telling people Clinton should do this for a few weeks now), Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton pledged to introduce a $275 billion infrastructure plan to Congress in her first 100 days of being president.
This is a very smart move. Most importantly, it lets voters know one her main priorities should she win in November. The question being asked, even by some of Clinton’s strongest supporters, is what exactly she wants to do as president; aside from just being the president?
It is a legitimate question and one I have a hard time answering. At least now we can point to something specific.
It is also straight from Bernie Sanders’ stump speech. Aside from the need to break up the big banks, investing in our infrastructure is the topic Sanders touches on the most. Clinton co-opting his message is another step towards making Sanders, and his supporters, more amicable to her campaign.
This is an issue that directly affects every single American in the country today. Getting more people health insurance is obviously an important issue; but since most Americans already have it through their employer, they do not pay much attention to those who do not. And when millions finally get it, they do not see a direct benefit themselves.
The same can be said with Wall Street regulation. It’s an important issue, but many Americans do not see a direct, positive effect from the passage of a bill like Dodd-Frank.
Not so with improving infrastructure. The benefits and results are immediate.
There is a caveat to this, however. While I am glad Clinton has made this a priority, it will not do her any good if she just leaves it as a pledge and only mentions it on occasion. She has to make this the central theme of her campaign. It has to be her main point in every stump speech, TV appearance, debate, etc.
Clinton could go into every state and every district across this county and point to structurally deficient roads and bridges people drive on every day. Though, for obvious reasons, it might be a good idea for her to concentrate on the swing states for now.
She can highlight all of cities and towns that have still have lead pipes, which as we saw in Flint, MI, poisons people’s drinking water. Most people are unaware of this and Clinton can use it to push for the long overdue need to upgrade the infrastructure that supplies tap water to the homes of every American.
Our country’s traffic and electrical grids are outdated. I imagine people would like to hear from Clinton how investing in their improvements can make our roads safer and save people money on energy costs, respectively. This in addition to alleviating the aggravation of traffic jams and power outages.
This country needs a major upgrade in our broadband infrastructure. Many small cities and rural areas do not have any backup systems if something goes wrong. Last year, parts of Northern Arizona were without internet services for up to 15 hours after fiber-optic cables were cut. In addition to cutting people off from the internet, it also shut down ATM machines, and many stores were unable to process credit cards.
In the year of 2016, this is unacceptable and Clinton should make sure people hear it over and over again. Not to mention, upgrading our broadband will provide more people in low income neighborhoods and towns with access to the internet in general.
She can push for the need to make our buildings more energy efficient, update our airports, sewer systems, and waste water treatment plants; or for the need to invest heavily in modern day public transportation like every other major industrialized country in the world currently does.
In addition to pointing out all of the deficiencies, Clinton needs to push this investment as a major jobs program.
While the economy is obviously better than it was when President Obama took office in 2009, many Americans are still hurting. Many are not being paid decent wages or even working full time. The federal government working with state and local governments, and forming public-private partnerships to help with these massive upgrades will create millions of well paying jobs that provide good benefits; which will expand the tax base and grow the overall economy to boot.
Think that will resonate with people across the country? I do. Hell, Clinton can say we are going to make America great again by putting more Americans back to work. It shows she understands the economic anxieties people are experiencing and it co-ops Trump’s bumper sticker slogan.
Clinton is someone who is seen as a relic of the past; a holdover from the 1990’s. While it is unlikely she will completely shake that label, she can certainly go a long way towards doing so by campaigning on being the president who finally moves our country’s infrastructure into the future. One relic of the past upgrading another, if you will.
She needs to give people a reason to vote for her. A reason other than “at least she isn’t Donald Trump.”
The infrastructure pledge is a good start. But it remains to be seen whether she will really use it to her advantage and be seen as a having a real plan for improving the country.
If not, she will just be seen as someone who wants to cross “be president” off of her to-do list.