Brad DeLong writes about a failure to initiate a canal system to address aquifer depletion. I havn’t heard anyone talk about it before but it could end up being the most important US issue of the next 50 years… I added a comment about an email I sent to the Whitehouse around 2010 as the Mississippi was flooding…
…pointless as [emailing a politician] was – that with the economy in depression, unemployment touching 10%, real borrowing rates negative, and the Mississippi (and tributaries) breaching levies everywhere (weather-weirding and fast-spring-melts) – surely the need for some big “public works” are in order – something like the moon-shot, WPA, whatever – and isn’t an interstate system of canals to help prevent floods, counteract desertification, address aquifer depletion, and setup a sustainable plan for US agriculture precisely what we need – and what the federal govt ought to be coordinating? Moreover, diverting excess Mississippi flow will even tend to reduce sea-level rise! And you could call it the “Barack H. Obama Interstate Canal System” – establish a lasting public works legacy that actually would have essentially incalculable benefits to future generations. What’s the downside? Current political capital, I suppose. I guess this goes down as Change We Can’t Believe In.
Yes, yes, I know – there’s no way the Republicans would let it pass (anyone have any short-term carrot ideas?) Fine – then make your legacy one of at least (one way or another) creating the conditions for a future administration to get it done: forcing Congress to reform itself into a functional establishment that (heaven forbid?) actually represents the electorate proportionally….?
Unfortunately, if we wait for the economy to recover before starting such a project, it will be much, much more expensive without any of the benefits – and the inevitable conservative critique (“crowding out!”) will actually be valid. We had a chance – a small one – to be proactive, intelligent, a nation that leads – but we will probably blow the opportunity. And this administration hasn’t even mentioned/tested the idea.