08/17/2011 04:53 pm ET | Updated Oct 17, 2011

Young Abe Lincoln on Infrastructure Investment

We need jobs. That actually is an understatement. We desperately need jobs would be more accurate.

In Democratic circles, one part of the remedy to what ails us is investment in our infrastructure. We have crumbling roads, questionable bridges, outdated airports, aging schools, and really, really slow trains.

Infrastructure investment represents a tremendous opportunity to create jobs. We need jobs that will put food on tables, save homes and reduce unemployment. This should be the highest priority for our lawmakers in Washington. There is nothing however to indicate that very many people are worried about job creation.

In Doris Kearns Goodwin's wonderful book Team of Rivals, she details Abraham Lincoln's rise in politics as well as the rise of his rivals for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination. This book will likely be discussed for years to come by political pundits after the election of any new president when discussing possible choices for his cabinet.

I reference this book today to demonstrate that nothing ever really changes but the clothes. While in the Illinois state legislature, Abraham Lincoln was adamant about the importance of investing in infrastructure. From Team of Rivals:

Lincoln knew firsthand the deprivations, the marginal livelihood of the subsistence farmer unable to bring produce to market without dependable roads. He had been paid the meager wages of the hired hand. Primitive roads, clogged waterways, lack of rail connections, inadequate schools -- Such were not merely issues to Lincoln, but hurdles he had worked all his life to overcome in order to earn an ampler share of freedom. These "improvements" to the infrastructure would enable thousands of farming families to emerge from the kind of poverty in which the Lincoln family had been trapped, and would permit new cities and towns to flourish.

At some point, prior generations determined that in order for the U.S. to make progress they had to make investments. The benefits may not be seen right away and may be difficult to quantify, but their children and grandchildren would see them. They did the right thing.

Republicans have declared war on education as well as teachers and the unions that represent them. Republicans have declared war on any additional spending regardless of need. Republicans have declared war on high speed rail. Republicans have declared war on the green jobs movement which represents the future. More simply, one could argue that Republicans have declared war on our future for their own political benefit today.

What is their reasoning? We just cannot afford it. While the truth is that we can ill afford to not make these investments if we hope to maintain our stature in the world.

China very shortly will represent the world's largest economy. China is currently number one in all major education categories while the U.S. lags far behind. China is currently investing major amounts in high speed rail. China realizes the future of green energy solutions and is leading the pack in technology and development.

We are not on a path to winning the future; we are currently forfeiting the future.

Why are we self-destructing as a nation? It is simple really. Republicans have chosen that their best chance for success of winning elections is painting not just President Obama, but also every progressive, every liberal and every Democrat as evil. They oppose everything because if they do not they lose the argument that everything the current administration does is horrible policy meant to send America on a path of irreversible destruction.

Washington has determined that they are no longer concerned with American problems just Democratic and Republican problems. There is no ability to build a consensus, to engage the opposition, to encourage compromise because the opinion is that it does not play well at the ballot box.

Ms. Goodwin makes the argument that Lincoln understood the problems of working class Americans because he had suffered the same road blocks and the same trials. He had been there. He could relate and he saw the need. He believed that government can and should play a role in securing the future of the disadvantaged and the poor. From Team of Rivals:

"Economic development provided the basis; Lincoln said much later, that would allow every American 'an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life." To Lincoln's mind, the fundamental test of a democracy was its capacity to "elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all."

Investing in infrastructure puts us in a position where we can hopefully hold our position in the economies of the world in the future, and provide work for citizens today.

Do not take my word for it. Take Lincoln's.