12/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Investing in our Nation's Infrastructure

As the glow of this historic election begins to fade, we as a nation must acknowledge the numerous and daunting challenges that lie ahead. Americans see the cost of food, gas and health care coverage rising to unaffordable levels, while their earnings remain the same. Our military is stretched thin by being entrenched in two wars - costing taxpayers billions of dollars per month - and monies that once flowed from the federal government to state and local governments have all but dried up.

In April, Congress issued its first economic stimulus package of $168 billion with the expectation that a $600 check would help boost the economy. Then in September, Congress bailed out Wall Street with $700 billion in an attempt to ease a credit crunch that was keeping banks from loaning money to each other. Now Congress is once again calling for quick action on a bill to stimulate the troubled economy, essentially a second stimulus package mirroring the first.

In April, I wrote a letter to the editor of Crain's Chicago Business explaining that the notion that we could spend our way out of trouble was incorrect. Instead, I argued that urging Americans to save should be the message from Capitol Hill, and that the prevalent culture of "instant gratification" should be discouraged as it is a major contributing factor to our dismal economy.

A second economic stimulus package, similar to the first, will further exacerbate the "I want it now" culture, rather than encourage citizens to tighten their belts. It will fail to ease the economic hardships that our nation and many individual Americans face. The second stimulus package being proposed by the "lame-duck" Congress would cost an estimated $150 billion and add to the ballooning federal deficit. It will not help grow our economy, nor will it create jobs for struggling Americans who must provide for their families. Another flat-screen television made in Asia or a new pair of designer shoes made in Europe will not prevent another bridge from collapsing in Minnesota.

Our country needs a plan that highlights and addresses the need for investment in national infrastructure. Such a plan should be bold and far-reaching, certain to stimulate growth and development within cities, while creating jobs and productivity in these challenging economic times. We must meet the needs and demands of transportation that have become increasingly significant in the 21st century.

President Roosevelt also faced a similarly momentous economic challenge and enacted the New Deal to create jobs for many Americans. Today, we see evidence of our nation's infrastructure crumbling throughout many cities. Here in Chicago, our roads, bridges, mass transit systems and schools are in dire need of updating. Now is the time to begin critical reinvestment in our nation's infrastructure. This investment will help strengthen our nation's transportation system, while creating jobs for many Americans. Reinvesting in our nation's infrastructure will help America compete in the global economy and yield tangible, visible and lasting benefits.

To re-emphasize, another economic stimulus check for each American is the wrong idea. Congress has an opportunity to keep this nation moving forward and it is my hope that our president-elect will continue to call for a $60 billion investment in infrastructure over 10 years, in order to tackle the financial challenges we face and address the desperate need for revitalization.