We just went through a major recession and we’re still trying to determine whether this economic recovery is actually going to be sustainable or if we’re not really out of the woods yet. We’re in the midst of a major debate on spending and budget deficits. Politics aside, it’s a valid discussion to be had, just as Region Forward promotes environmental sustainability, fiscal sustainability is also important, as long knee-jerk decisions aren’t made that end up with negative consequences in the long run.
As we argued in early February, there may be areas that need cutting; however, there are also areas that need investment to produce future growth. Education and infrastructure are two primary examples of the latter. As Neal Pierce notes in his column this week about the need to balance deficit concerns with making necessary investment, failing to invest in key areas (technology, green energy, infrastructure, and education) will allow our competitors “to eat our collective lunch. Translation: declining American living standards, dramatically diminished opportunities for our children and grandchildren.”
Over at The Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark also tackles this tough issue this week. Freemark, focusing on transportation funding, argues that a lack of a long-term perspective puts the U.S. in danger of making hasty decisions that run counter to the goals of the people making such decisions. In other words, those policymakers who are genuinely concerned about the fiscal situation and are proposing drastic cuts in key areas may be creating a perpetual cycle of lost vitality and competitiveness for the country. The message from Pierce and Freemark is not to avoid this debate on fiscal sustainability, but to take a long-term perspective on any proposed actions. They’re not saying don’t cut, they’re simply saying think before you cut.