When I worked for a public company, one whose stock was traded on NASDAQ, a long term investment was one that had to yield benefits within 3 months. The whole focus of the firm was to make the quarterly report look good so as to not adversely affect the stock price. Any investment that would not show a return for several years was out of the question. Now that I own my own firm, we regularly make investments that often take years to recoup. Farmers have this same mindset as they make improvements in their soil, their equipment, or their buildings that have long term benefits. Unfortunately, Congress is stuck in short term mode and cannot look beyond the next election cycle when making decisions.
Last July, Congress passed a measure to extend the Highway Trust Fund through May 31 of this year. Last week the House passed an extension of funding until July 31 of this year. Wow, that is long term thinking (insert sarcasm here). The fact is Congress has passed 32 extensions and five revenue shortfalls to transportation funding in the past 8 years. The Highway Trust Fund is just an example of the kind of Congressional irresponsibility we have seen. While this topic is not top of mind with most voters, it is something that impacts every American who gets in a car, bus, or truck and drives down the road. The Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956, is a federal transportation fund that pays for the construction and maintenance of highways, roads, and bridges. No matter what state you live in and no matter if you drive in a rural or urban area, I am positive you have noticed the roads you are on need repair. “There isn’t a county in this country that does not have a road or bridge in need of work. Farmers need all available modes of transportation to safely and efficiently get our products to market and be globally competitive. It’s time to move past short-term stopgaps and toward a long-term strategy to invest in our national infrastructure,” stated National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling.
This is just one example of how politics and polarization have made Congress and the Executive branch incapable of taking action and making decisions that are in the long term best interests of this country. Tea Party interests trying to slow ballooning federal spending just say no to anything with a price tag, while liberals and special interests see a Highway funding bill as a great place to load up all kinds of things that have nothing to do with roads and bridges. Meanwhile, the rest of us bump and rattle along crumbling roads and complain, “Somebody should fix this road!” Somebody should fix that road, but the people we sent to Washington aren’t doing their job.
Yet, those of us who drive up and down these crumbing roads share in some of the blame. Both parties want to pass a plan to provide funding for surface transportation projects for up to six years, but they are stuck—and have been for a long time—on how to pay for it. The federal gas tax finances the Highway Trust Fund and hasn’t gone up in more than 20 years, but Republicans and many Democrats refuse to raise it because they fear a taxpayer backlash. The price of gas is a very touchy point with most people, and raising the gas tax would increase the price at the pump. Yet, with fuel prices at historic lows, perhaps this is the time to raise the federal gasoline tax. You see we, too, must be willing to make long term investments in the highway system on which we all depend so much
We need to send a message to Washington that we want our leaders to get serious about some of the long term issues that will impact the lives of Americans for the next decade. We must insist they look beyond the next election cycle and start making long term investments that are good for the nation and its people. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure is one of these. We must also be responsible and be willing to make an investment in the roads and bridges in our community. This might even include paying a few more pennies at the pump.
By Gary Truitt