In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech to Congress in which he claimed: “the liberty of a democracy is not safe, if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.”
Those words rang true then and again today.
The widening gap between high-powered executives and average workers has become unfair and unsustainable. The costs of housing, education, health care, and childcare have climbed in recent years while wages have remained largely stagnant making it harder for the youth of today to become the middle class of tomorrow.
The 15th District of Texas has experienced remarkable growth but South Texas is still one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the nation. Inequality has been a growing concern for years – one that intensified during the pandemic.
In response to this growing crisis, the Speaker of the House has created the bipartisan House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth and appointed individuals from every corner of our great nation to close the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.
America is one of wealthiest countries in the world, but ranks 13th in the quality of our infrastructure because we have neglected to make the investments necessary to accommodate a growing population and prevent economic disruptions and the loss of life during natural disasters. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our nation and Texas maintain a near failing grade when it comes to our infrastructure. Recent natural disasters in Texas have highlighted these shortcomings and vulnerabilities in our energy grid and flood mitigation.
There is a clear link between economic growth and a connected and modern infrastructure. This is more than roadways— it’s all aspects of infrastructure including broadband and water scarcity.
As a member of this select committee, I will focus on infrastructure connectivity. The 15th District of Texas is an epicenter for trade, cross-border travel, innovation, and industry. Yet we lack an interstate highway connecting us to the rest of our state and nation.
South Texas is also one of the most digitally disconnected districts in the United States — an issue that was magnified as we transitioned to remote work and schooling during the pandemic. Internet deserts span urban and rural communities and it’s long past time that we bridge the digital divide.
Americans deserve a renewed and focused effort to address the structural inequality and economic hardships. For South Texans that translates into sustained investments in our infrastructure, connectivity, education, and, especially, our workforce. These are the things that will give Americans a fair shot at competing in a 21st Century economy.
We understand the enormity of the task at hand and know that change won’t happen all at once. The challenges we face are not red or blue problems, they are American problems. Everyone in the United States deserves a fair shot at the American Dream and that begins with our most basic infrastructure as a foundation for prosperity.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by U.s. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, Texas. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Gonzalez can be reached by email via: [email protected].
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