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16 September 2011 - President Obama, Stop Talking, Start Acting

Earlier this month, President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to present his proposal on creating jobs in America before a joint session of Congress. He focused on the need to rebuild infrastructure. He talked about repairing schools, bridges, highways, airports and other areas where jobs could be created quickly.

In my mind he ignored a critical area, so I have a suggestion for the President that would create jobs immediately. For more than 20 years we have talked about the need to repair and modernize the locks and dams on the inland waterway system that serves the heartland of the United States. It has been debated and approved by Congress, but then they fail to appropriate the money needed to do the job and the system continues to deteriorate.

I recently talked to Wendell Schauman, an Illinois grain farmer who lives a few miles from the Mississippi River. He currently serves as Chairman of the U.S. Grains Council. Wendell expressed his frustration on the lack of activity in fixing a system that is now seventy-years-old and losing efficiency every day. The locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers carry much of our Midwest agricultural production to the port of New Orleans and the buyers around the world; at the same time it brings products back up the waterway system needed by people living in the heartland, so it is more than an agricultural issue.

When I asked Wendell Schauman why we have gone twenty years without action, he said the answer is “money. They don’t have the money or at least that is what they say.” Meanwhile other countries who compete with us in the world agricultural market understand the importance of transportation and are building highways, railroads and port facilities to better compete with us in the world market.

We cannot afford to let this waterway system continue to deteriorate. Repairing the system would put thousands of people to work and provide them with a solid income for many years. Transportation engineers estimate it is a 10 to 15 year project.

In his address, President Obama several times said let’s “pass this jobs program right away”. So my suggestion for Congress and the President is this, if you want to create jobs “right away” let’s quit talking and start acting on repairing the waterway system so vital to the economic well-being of the United States.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.