Friday, February 26, 2010

Infrastructure: Not Pretty But Pretty Fundamental (by Tyeis L. Baker-Baumann)

I read with interest (February 16, 2010) an op-ed piece in the New York Times written by Bob Herbert entitled: “What’s Wrong With Us?” In his piece, Mr. Herbert sites the growing problems and concerns with the infrastructure of the United States: highways, bridges, water and sewer lines. It is not something you read about everyday, though most of us are happy to complain about pieces of the problem when they occur: pot holes and backed up sewer lines are a couple which easily come to mind. His question,”What’s Wrong With Us?” focuses squarely on the lack of attention or apparent interest in funding repairs and updates to our infrastructure.

I remember as a kid in the 60’s watching some TV variety show. The comedian on for the evening was poking fun at Ohio in general and Governor James Rhoades in particular for the state’s extensive interstate highway system……implying we didn’t want people to stay in our state….just wanted them to pass through as quickly as possible. He was simply poking fun (and not understanding the merit) of a piece of what was then a part of Ohio’s state of the art infrastructure (and a fundamental reason the state became an economic and political powerhouse).

Like most folks in West Central Ohio, I grew up watching my fair share of high school sports: in particular basketball and baseball. I remember hearing the adults and coaches talk, in fact, preach about the importance of “fundamentals”. As a kid taking piano lessons, playing in band and singing in the choir, musical instructors required music theory, scales, warm-ups…..again regular, consistent and unrushed practice of the fundamentals before any practice, rehearsal or actual performances.

In the comments section of Mr. Herbert’s op-ed piece, the responses to his editorial question range from: infrastructure is simply not “flashy” enough to the existence of more important issues such as the war, national security, and the economy. Apparently no one remembers it was Dwight D. Eisenhower, as President, who promoted and firmly believed in a strong infrastructure as a fundamental component of national security. (For those too young to remember, he was a general prior to being President of the USA) Any local, regional, state, national or international business will tell you a cohesive, reliable infrastructure is fundamental to the ability to construct, let alone develop a profitable business/ economic environment. Ask any undeveloped, struggling country: their lack of infrastructure is a primary obstacle in economic development efforts and the health and prosperity of their citizens.

Roads, bridges, sewers, electrical and communication grids: they may not be glamorous, may not be pretty......but without these fundamentals, the “glamorous” things like jobs, national security, education, and yes, even the arts, shopping, and housing can not be secure, let alone reach their full potential and prosper.

I understand people generally do not like to spend money on things they cannot “see”. I understand funding these fundamentals is expensive. However, without them, we will see an erosion of our economy and standard of living which could easily be prevented. A long term, growth oriented and thoughtful plan for the care, maintenance and development of our infrastructure is paramount to economic and community development. It can help us limit the personal and economic tragedies of a Hurricane Katrina. It can keep rural and metropolitan areas intimately linked for the appropriate distribution of food, other goods, and services.

In these challenging economic times, we all have to make difficult choices. It is my hope we do not continue down the path of choosing to ignore or bypass the fundamentals of our infrastructure. Borrowing the words from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” And folks, if you do not build it, they (health, prosperity, education, economic and community stability) will go somewhere that will!

[Tyeis L. Baker-Baumann is the President of Rebsco, Inc.]


  1. very wise comments!

  2. Would this apply to a new school as well? I think it would! I beleive that is fundamental to our community's future.

  3. The various government agencies locally and around the country are missing a great oportunity to take advantage of the stimulous money that is being made available. It would a great time to go after this money to replace the water and sewer systems in the cities.
    A lot of them have been in the ground for over 100 years and are in very poor condition. Metal rusted water lines could be replaced with new clean and longer lasting plastic piping that would serve the users with healthier water supplies. Some of the older water lines were put in with lead base pipes.

  4. No disrespect intended, but if you people with money want it, dig deep, very deep, and build it. Most of the people are having a hard enough time now making ends meet and you tell us to pay more taxes, take one for the team. If you people listen to any news, and don't comment about right-wing this or that, it is both Democrat and Repub economists that are stating that the 2011 and 2012 economic forcasts are not looking very good and are expecting another big downturn. When is enough going to be enough? At what point is the percentage of taxes a person pays enough to force him or her to give up and quit their job because it isn't worth the effort when you can do better on welfare, 50, 60 or 90%?

    You, as a business person, know that the tax structure for businesses in this country is terrble to say the least and I am sure you and your company are a target about to get blasted with taxes. You also know that businesses don't really pay taxes. The cost is passed down to your customers so you can maintain your profit margin. Where can the taxpayer pass the cost? Does he or she have to quit eating? If he or she doesn't have the extra cash to buy a pizza, cellphone, lawn mower and the like nobody wins. This talk of taxing everyone to death, while appealing to a cerain faction of folks, has to stop and people need to come to a reality that there is a point of no return and that everything shuts down.

    Just playing devil's advocate!

  5. The definition of a slave is one who is taxed at the rate of 100%.

  6. Continuing! You are correct, in the 60's, Ohio was building interstate highways and bridges, first class stuff! US127 used to be a major north/south route from Canada to Florida. What did the interstate do for this corridor? For that matter, what did the 127 bypass do to downtown Greenville. It bypassed it. US75 moved the manufacturing east of us about 25/30 miles, basically leaving the US127 corridor in the dust from Canada to Florida. As we have let businesses move away, our location is not in the magic proximity radius limits to an interstate highway that most large companies want, so we are left with what?

    Now to the utility infrastructure. Back in the late 70's, early 80's, the communication industries were turned on their heads because of deregulation. We consumers were told, by government, that deregulation would promote competition and reduce costs and improve services. While the incumbent communication companies are still being regulated, companies that are competing against them are not with no accoutability. There is plenty of competition, but has your cost for services declined, is service better? Now it is the electrical and gas being deregulated, you can purchase electric and gas form different companies through the facilities of the incumbent companies, this has been going on for the communication companies for a while. That to me is like making Chrysler use Ford's engines and drive trains in their cars and trucks and then being responsible for the warranty. I ask you, has all of this deregulation helped? It seems to me that it is more confusing and troublesome and consumers are paying alot more for less service for a lot of stuff these days.

    There is much wrong with the way that our "so-called" leaders in D.C. have been conducting themselves since FDR to the present. It is my belief that we must slow or even shut them down and get back to the basics, the fundamentals, of a smaller, more fiscal government while keeping the federal government out of the states' business and our own personal lives. Govenment has grown to the point that there are more government jobs than private sector jobs. What that translates to is an upside down tax structure. As our government cannot create wealth, it needs to create the basics, the fundamentals for the creation of private sector wealth. How does that happen? Does it happen by the government controlling all businesses and price fixing so poor people can afford the wares? Does it happen by taxing people under the belief that if you build it, they will come? Does it happen by borrowing trillions of dollars from wherever you can with no immediate intent to pay it back, and I am not trying to "bash" Obama? Does "green jobs" seem like a viable avenue, or the flying car factory that is supposed to be coming to the Miami Valley, the base price for one is $195k when I looked it up? Does trying to tax coal powered electrical plants out of existance seem ok? Man! I wish I had the magic pill.

    I do really mean it. I mean no disrespect to Tyeis L. Baker-Baumann. I am just trying to promote thought for debate and I realize some of it may sound harsh, it is not intended to be.

  7. This is the kind of dialog that I like to read and see people use, anon 8:53. When one party (Ty) and another (anon, 8:53) can both raise good and viable points. It would be great if these people and people like them could get together to come to workable solutions that work for all.

  8. Why can't this great country tell the rest of the world they are on their own for 5 or 10 years, and use all the aid money to fix the infrastructure in this country? I for one am tired of being the world's police force and means of support.

  9. Because many well-connected people in this great country benefit greatly by the US being the world's police force and means of support.

  10. Part of the problem Washington, is the entrenchment of lawmakers. In the beginning, "citizen legislators" were voted to fill positions in congress and then come home, not make it there life's work like Strom Thurmam, Harry Reed, It stands to reason that if the President can only serve two terms, the boys down the street should serve at the same rate. Everything in the piece was true, but it won't get fixed till this problem is fixed.

  11. I think it has gotten to the point were we need to put aside the political parties and work on fixing our country.other words it dont matter what party you back republican or democrat arent we all Americans for gods sake.If these parties had any interest in fixing this country they would put aside there differance of opinion and get busy fixing it.I am 42 years old and unemployed for over a year first time in my life I have gone this long with out work.Rebuilding the infastructsure would put a lot more people to work than what there doing now.We need jobs now not 20 years from now.Just my opinion


Featured Posts

/* Track outbound links in Google Analytics */