After a dollop of lip service and a $150 billion injection ofstimulus funding mostly for desperately needed fix-it projects,America’s slowly corroding and crumbling infrastructure looks likeit will get less attention rather than more in the New Year. Allthe excitement generated in 2009 about high speed rail linesspringing up across the country has dissipated in budget bustingrealities. Cities cut back on or delay subway and light railprojects. Water districts postpone plans to replace or upgraderusting mains and past-their-life-cycle sewage treatmentplants. Maybe worst of all and indicative of the country’smounting predicament, highway departments in states and citiesaround the country make triage decisions about whether they repairdangerous bridges or take their chances for another year onpatching and monitoring since they don’t have the money to doanything else.

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While politician priorities are tax cuts and deficit reduction,the systems that facilitate mobility, economic growth, andprosperous lifestyles degrade slowly, threatening to undermine thecountry’s global standing. Liberals talk up healthcare and SocialSecurity. Conservatives just want to put more money in (less faceit wealthy) people’s pockets. It’s somehow critical to our nationaldefense that we’ve spent the past nearly 10 years fighting trilliondollar wars. But no one seems to get that our transport networks,water systems, and power grids are beginning to look and act moreThird World than New Age. And given our other priorities,there is no funding or impetus to take action.

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Somehow the fat cat in his Beemer might be more inclined to giveup that tax cut on earnings above $250,000 a year if he consideredthat chances are growing that the overpass he’s about to drive overcould collapse or the bridge to his beach house might need to closedown for replacement. What happens if the power grid to a majormetro shorts out for a week? Try charging your I-Pad or makinge-trades on your battery depleted cell phone. And do you feel anysafer flying because our air traffic controllers use radar systemsdating back to World War II rather than new GPS technologies?

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Forget about high speed rail and the four or five new hubairports the country needs to keep up with mobility needs andpopulation increases. We don’t have enough to fix or maintainexisting networks. The funding gap is currently more than $2trillion and growing—that’s Iraq and Afghanistan wars timestwo.

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Anybody who thinks America doesn’t need to undertake a majorrebuilding program to remain globally competitive has his head inthe sand or somewhere else equally suffocating. Politicalcompromise might suggest a solution where we apply tax increases onwealthier Americans for major reconstruction programs that not onlyhelp reduce unemployment rolls and the need to payunemployment/welfare-related benefits over time, but also begin toshore up the systems that keep us functioning. I know that’s viewedas more big government waste. But the private sector can’t director implement infrastructure policy—that’s the government’s job. Andif we don’t fund the government to get the job done—we’ll have lessmoney in all of our pockets and face the reality of spiralingeconomic decline.

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Happy Holidays!

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Jonathan D. Miller

A marketing communication strategist who turned to real estate analysis, Jonathan D. Miller is a foremost interpreter of 21st citistate futures – cities and suburbs alike – seen through the lens of lifestyles and market realities. For more than 20 years (1992-2013), Miller authored Emerging Trends in Real Estate, the leading commercial real estate industry outlook report, published annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). He has lectures frequently on trends in real estate, including the future of America's major 24-hour urban centers and sprawling suburbs. He also has been author of ULI’s annual forecasts on infrastructure and its What’s Next? series of forecasts. On a weekly basis, he writes the Trendczar blog for GlobeStreet.com, the real estate news website. Outside his published forecasting work, Miller is a prominent communications/institutional investor-marketing strategist and partner in Miller Ryan LLC, helping corporate clients develop and execute branding and communications programs. He led the re-branding of GMAC Commercial Mortgage to Capmark Financial Group Inc. and he was part of the management team that helped build Equitable Real Estate Investment Management, Inc. (subsequently Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, Inc.) into the leading real estate advisor to pension funds and other real institutional investors. He joined the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. in 1981, moving to Equitable Real Estate in 1984 as head of Corporate/Marketing Communications. In the 1980's he managed relations for several of the country's most prominent real estate developments including New York's Trump Tower and the Equitable Center. Earlier in his career, Miller was a reporter for Gannett Newspapers. He is a member of the Citistates Group and a board member of NYC Outward Bound Schools and the Center for Employment Opportunities.