Reconstructing the American Dream

10/28/2011 12:38 pm ET | Updated Dec 28, 2011

The other night I dreamed of an inspired future for America. I saw a quintet of gleaming new passenger terminals at Chicago O'Hare, which as any traveler who has passed through this venerable airport's overburdened, outdated terminals knows is remarkable.

In my dream, just a year or so after shovels first bit the northern Illinois earth, these cutting edge terminals generated a leap in traveler satisfaction, efficiency and local economic growth, paid for by a partnership between the Airport Authority and private investors, made possible through the Obama Administration's highly successful, landmark accomplishments: the National Infrastructure Bank and the Fast Track Infrastructure Investment Authority.

The Bank in my dream is staffed, through an independent board, with seasoned investment professionals unconnected to politics. It invests in projects that make economic sense, and is already profitable. Competitive compensation and profit sharing enable the Bank to attract the country's best infrastructure investment professionals.

The Fast Track Authority is empowered to approve new projects quickly by eliminating the red tape that has bedeviled infrastructure projects for decades.

In my dream, the O'Hare terminals are just a part of the exciting infrastructure revitalization creating quality jobs across America. Totaling over a trillion dollars, they include a much needed upgrade of the wheezing California power network using 'smart grid' technology.

In my dream, the centerpiece of Obama's stirring inaugural is a plan to create six million jobs by installing the infrastructure needed to restore the U.S. as the undisputed economic beacon of the world. And as Obama said, drawing from FDR's 1932 inaugural address, "The only thing we need to fear is inaction, and I promise you bold and decisive action. Once again, America will be the economic model the rest of the world emulates."

Massive public support for this agenda, including from many lifelong Republicans who supported him and majorities in both houses of Congress, allow Obama to lead the most electrifying first 100 days since FDR.

In my dream, some scholars argue that President Obama outshines Roosevelt in the strength and breadth of his vision and accomplishments, which include simplifying the Federal tax code to make it fair for everyone and implementing an incremental surtax on the very wealthy along with a progressive, national value added tax.

These decisive steps put America on a straight path to achieving a balanced budget and paying down the national debt.

In my dream, President Obama delivers cogent addresses to the American people, where he succinctly explains his vision, asking Americans to make sacrifices in the same ways our parents and grandparents did when the country faced the epochal challenges of the Depression, the Second World War and the existential threat of Soviet Communism. America is answering his call.

Taxes are higher for me and other financially successful Americans, but none of us are complaining, because we recognize the value of paying our fair share to get our country back on track for all Americans.

America is a hive of extraordinary optimism. Unemployment is at 6.5% and falling. There is an overwhelming sense that America is firmly on the right track and our best days are ahead of us.

Abruptly and harshly, I wake from this inspired dream. In the cold reality of a bleak dawn, as far from Ronald Reagan's 'Morning in America' as I could be, I have that sinking feeling that America's best days are actually no longer ahead of us. Why did the America of my dream not come to be? Certainly not because it couldn't.

So I ask: Why didn't President Obama seize his opportunity to create jobs and jumpstart our economy through a game changing infrastructure revitalization strategy? Why did he apply his popular mandate for change to chase a bitterly divisive, expensive and controversial health care strategy, instead of first focusing on jobs? Why did he focus both his economic stimulus bill and his current jobs creation proposal on political pork and not on getting America moving once again?

Most significantly, why, when he had the chance, didn't Barack Obama eclipse FDR and Ronald Reagan in making America great once again?

While these questions will occupy historians for decades to come, what matters here and now is how my dream of an American return to greatness can come true and be deferred no more, whether it's through the reinvigorated leadership of President Obama or the next Republican nominee for President.

Of course my dream for America's future cannot become reality without the wholehearted endorsement and leadership of the House and Senate. I strongly believe that could have happened within the first 100 days of the Obama Administration. Now the road to the successful American future of my dream is going to be harder to travel, but it's still there.

Since the Revolution, Americans have always realized their vision for the American dream. We can too. To do that, we need inspired leadership, focused on the single greatest and least partisan issue facing us today: revitalizing our economy and creating the millions of jobs we need to make America great once again.

Christopher H. Lee and Sean Medcalf work at Highstar Capital, an infrastructure investment business.