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America’s Infrastructure Is No Laughing Matter

Humor is a powerful tool, and many times it can deliver a very pointed message. Several late night comedians have long perfected their monologues to mirror what is happening in the country, and as any regular reader to The Onion knows, behind the wicked satire can be a razor-sharp point. Such is the message delivered by the infamous news satire site in its July 28, 2011, story “Al-Qaeda Claims U.S. Mass Transportation Infrastructure Must Drastically Improve Before Any Terrorist Attacks.”

While there is nothing remotely funny about al Qaeda, its newest leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or the organization’s goals and tactics, the jokes the writers make at the nation’s expense about the state of its infrastructure could not be more accurate.

Other nations are putting far more thought, imagination, and resources into their infrastructure investments than we are in this country. Anyone stuck in the Washington, D.C., area’s wretched traffic, California’s recent “carmaggedon,” or worried about the looming and unknown I-35 Bridges out there knows that to be a fact. Despite all of the unflattering ASCE Report Cards on the state of the nation’s infrastructure, we continue to reinforce the legacy systems and behaviors that never seem to address the actual needs we desperately need satisfied.

As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation program “Infrastructure: What We Want; What We Need” profiled, it is well past time for us to change our strategies and mindset of how we deal with this issue.

For as funny as The Onion’s take on the state of our nation’s transportation infrastructure may be, it rings painfully true in so many ways. Without viable, durable, and resilient infrastructures, our economy and way of life are at risk. Those are certainly targets of al Qaeda, but we shouldn’t be aiding that mission by continuing to ignore the very real risks and threats that are right in front of us.

That’s a message we ignore at our own national economic peril, and there’s nothing funny about that fact.


Richard “Rich” Cooper is a Principal with Catalyst Partners, LLC, a government and public affairs...