12 September 2010 - It’s Time, Mr. President!

The problem of high unemployment in this country has challenged Barack Obama ever since he moved into the White House. Stimulus programs and other government programs that were supposed to create jobs simply have not brought the unemployment rate lower. So a few days ago the President, in speeches in Milwaukee and Cleveland, pledged $50-billion to improve infrastructure in the United States, to improve roads, railroads, and airports. He said it is a six-year re-authorization of transportation projects that will create jobs and will improve deteriorating infrastructures.

Well, far be it from me to offer advice to the President of the United States, but I am going to do it anyway. What is missing from that $50-billion dollar commitment? He made no mention of improving the inland waterway system; something we in agriculture have been working on for well over a decade. And after all that time, we still have not been able to get Congress and the administration, Republican or Democrat, to move the funds forward to improve an antiquated lock and dam system on the upper Mississippi River and the Illinois River. This navigable waterway transportation system is absolutely essential to moving agricultural goods to the Gulf and to foreign markets, as well as bringing needed goods upriver to the heartland of America.

Not only would it create thousands of jobs, probably for ten years, but it would also save us a lot of energy. The most energy-efficient way to move commodities, such as coal, grain, iron, steel, aggregates, petroleum and chemical products is to use the nation’s navigable rivers. Barges can move one ton of cargo 576 miles per gallon of fuel. A rail car would move the same ton of cargo for 413 miles, and a truck, only 155 miles on one gallon of fuel. It would also relieve congestion on our nation’s highways because one common 15-barge tow carries the cargo of 1,050 large semi-tractor trailers.

Finally, taxpayers would not carry the total cost of the renovation; a tax on the industry has been in place for years, building a fund to replace the locks and dams that are falling apart.

Mr. President, it is time to allocate the funds and begin the work that will benefit the entire nation; that will maintain our positive balance of trade in agricultural products; that will create thousands of jobs for years; that will save energy and cut our dependence on foreign oil.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.