Imagine if the U.S. political environment of 1936 was so bad that the Rural Electrification Act never happened.
Under pure supply-and-demand principles, it made no economic sense for private businesses to pay exorbitant costs to reach low-populated rural areas, but the federal government saw that farmers and folks in rural areas needed electricity, just like city residents. Without power, rural America would have fallen far behind urban areas. And this would have been bad in so many ways, not just economic. So, we needed a national plan where the national good was more important than just fist loads of cash for big business.
And what if the political situation was so bad in 1956 that the National Interstate and Defense Act was never passed? What if we never had interstates, which proved hugely valuable economically and convenient for nearly 65 years?
Instead, imagine a mid-20th century America with complete political gridlock. What if mid-century Republicans and Democrats just talked about these things for decades — electricity and highways — and just shrugged their shoulders, saying “oh well, whatdya' do?” How long would the rural South have sat in darkness — the 1970s, 1980s? Seems insane to think that, right? But honestly, how long would it have taken private business to run find it in their economic interest to run those lines? What a terrible alternative history, right? Aren’t you glad the federal government stepped in and saw that rural lands couldn’t be left in the dust when it comes to power? Aren’t you glad that we have a national highway system that has meant so much in terms of convenience and the transportation of goods? Haven’t these two national projects paid for themselves many times over? Think of what both federal actions meant for business and prosperity.
No doubt, this nation is in a bad place politically. One of the primary reasons we’re in such a fix is that we focus on the fight, not the shared goal. Of course, politics is always tough. There are always fights. But in the latter half of the 20th century, we saw a level of functionality that made big things happen. Consider that the Rural Electrification Act came under a Democratic administration and the interstate act under a Republican one. Do you honestly care which party gets the “win” or do you care that your lights come on and you have highways to get goods to you and take you places? What’s more important, your team “winning” or “losing” or a public system that actually values a win for the country?
I’m so irritated with so much these days. Who isn’t? But can we stop our animosities long enough to agree on certain shared goals? Can’t we have one win where everybody is happy? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Yes, I won’t even get the proposal typed before it’s shot down as ludicrous. And I agree, it’s insane to think this nation can do anything without hate anymore. Hate is our primary export at the moment. It’s awful. And, yes, I know the reason my idea won’t work. It’s because there is a lot of money invested in keeping the status quo. And politicians react to the money, not the people.
But listen, we need a project right now that is in line with the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. Call it the National Internet Act of 2020. We all recognize that high-speed Internet access is essential and will only be more so in years to come. The rural areas of America are falling behind the urban ones in terms of access. If we care to be global leaders in terms of technology and business, how can we fail to address the basic framework we all need to succeed? We need a national plan to wire everyone with the tool of this century.
Why hasn’t there been a national push for this? I’m not proposing something unique. This has been obvious to everyone for a long time. Are we so freaking blind with rage at one another that we can’t unite on one issue and push Republicans and Democrats alike to get this done?
We are spending trillions of dollars right now on saving ourselves from this beast of a disease. Can we not at least recognize that we need to invest in our future, too?
I just want results, not a fight. I want to see our health care system addressed in a similar manner, but I know that’s too much to ask for in this bitterly divided country. But can’t all Republicans and Democrats at least agree that we need a national plan on the Internet? It needs to work just as well in the country as it does in the cities. It needs to be fast. We need to be leaders, not followers in this world on this matter. Our businesses need it. Our citizens need it. Madison County needs it.
To our leaders: make it happen! And don’t point fingers. Just do it.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.