National Commentary

Schwarzenegger To The Rescue

bentonmugThe role of superhero is not uncommon to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that may have something to do with why he’s starting to emerge as perhaps the nation’s strongest advocate for serious national infrastructure development. Such development stands as the country’s best and probably only sustainable remedy for its ailing economy and persisting high unemployment.

bentonmugThe role of superhero is not uncommon to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that may have something to do with why he’s starting to emerge as perhaps the nation’s strongest advocate for serious national infrastructure development. Such development stands as the country’s best and probably only sustainable remedy for its ailing economy and persisting high unemployment.

As evidenced by his appearance on ABC-TV “This Week” last Sunday, the out-going Republican governor is probably the strongest ally on the GOP side of President Obama’s economic policy. A strong supporter of Obama’s stimulus plan, against almost everyone else in his own party, Schwarzenegger hailed its benefits and for addressing the 12 percent official unemployment rate in California. His only criticism of Obama is that he’s not pushing it hard enough.

Schwarzenegger appeared on the show with Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell. The two joined with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to form the bi-partisan coalition, Building America’s Future, to educate federal, state and local government officials on best practices regarding infrastructure funding issues.

But Schwarzenegger is just the kind of bigger-than-life political figure who has the personal strength, charisma, communication and related qualities to truly bridge the partisan divide and re-focus the nation on the real task at hand. He is already shifting his gaze from ‘Colly-Four-Nyah’ to core issues before the entire country, magnified by his presence in Washington, D.C. for the National Governor’s Conference this week, including his one-on-one with Obama at the White House.

Critical of the “Party of No” approach of his GOP colleagues and dismissive of the Tea Party Movement (“The Tea Party is not going to go anywhere. I think the Tea Party is all about an expression of anger,” he said), Schwarzenegger indicated that he really “gets it” about the importance and role of large-scale national infrastructure development.

“One should never get confused between spending money and investing in the future of America,” he said, making a critical point about the role of debt and taking a major swipe at the “Party of No” approach. The issue, in other words, acknowledges the fundamental difference between squandering money at a casino and investing in the generation of future wealth. While it’s something that most ordinary households understand, it is something that Republicans generally fail to, railing indiscriminately against any and all kinds of debt.

Water infrastructure and high-speed rail were two examples of the right kind of investment, Schwarzenegger stated. Putting it in perspective, he said, “All the great civilizations became great because they had great infrastructure. If you think about the Persians, of building the waterways and the paved roads. The Romans, they had the aqueduct system of delivering water and the sewage systems, the Egyptians…The decay and falling of those empires and of those civilizations is directly linked to not keeping up the infrastructure. So we have to be very, very careful in America.”

The “governator” noted that America ceased new large-scale infrastructure development in the 1960s and has also ceased to maintain what was built. This must change. Lack of new water infrastructure in California’s central valley, he noted, has directly contributed to 40 percent unemployment there.

Schwarzenegger is the perfect model for a national “czar” for a real revival of job-creating large-scale infrastructure development.

As has been touted in this column many times before, one of the first projects that the new czar could embrace should be the “North American Water and Power Alliance” (NAWAPA) plan developed in the 1950s by the Ralph Parsons Company of Pasadena. This plan would accomplish everything that Schwarzenegger feels is important about large-scale projects.

It uses basic engineering principles to transfer enormous amounts of fresh water from northern-flowing rivers in Alaska and the Yukon down through the Rockies and eventually into the arid Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico.

It will not only permit the irrigation of countless acres of farmland, it will create tons of jobs and a huge surplus of clean hydroelectric power. By contributing to the expansion of plant life, it will also have the effect of countering the effects of global warming.

Granted, it’s a big project. But Schwarzenegger is a big man.

 


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]