On the Link Between Infrastructure and "Jobs for the Future"

By Michael Hendrix
July 29, 2011
General Foundation

In the midst of the sturm und drang of the debt ceiling debate in Washington, Politico held a morning event this week looking at the “Jobs of the Future.”  With panelists from the Obama administration, Congress, and academia, the event aired all manner of ideas as to how to get America back to work and ready for the future.  That’s a good thing, especially in light of recent articles on reducing hiring prospects for America’s unemployed.

What were some of the conclusions? As Don Graves, Executive Director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, said, America needs to be focusing on investment.  This is something that all panelists agreed on, none more so than Glenn Hubbard, Dean of Columbia’s business school and former Chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, who pointed to the recent work of Edmund Phelps and argued for the creation of a national innovation bank to finance smart new ideas by entrepreneurs. 

Similarly, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said that if she could wave a magic wand and enact any piece of legislation right now in a bid to create more jobs, she would have Congress create a national infrastructure bank to spur private investment in public infrastructure.  Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, in bipartisan spirit, thought that this was a good idea, though he also said that the government’s initial investment in such a bank should come from cuts made elsewhere in the federal budget.

Whether it be an infrastructure banks or Jared Bernstein’s call later in the program for a Marshall Plan to fix America’s schools, the point came down to something Dr. Hubbard said: “What the American economy is missing now is animal spirits.”  That is, its often heady mix of entrepreneurial dynamism and consumer confidence.  What does that have to do with infrastructure?  Quite a lot, actually. 

As Robert Puentes, a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, put it in a recent event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, “Infrastructure is central to U.S. prosperity and global competitiveness.”  Investment in infrastructure is key not just to short-term job creation, but for laying down the foundation for future innovation.

The National Chamber Foundation’s recent event on infrastructure echoed the Politico panelists on investing for the future.  I’d invite you to check out what our private sector investors and public sector experts had to say.  Looking at what impacts business and job creation in the future is central to NCF’s mission.  We applaud Politico for furthering the debate on these vitally important issues, especially on infrastructure.