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Guest on The Infra Blog: David Walker, CEO, Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Posted by Steve Anderson on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

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David M. Walker is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan foundation “dedicated to increase public awareness of the nature and urgency of key economic challenges threatening America’s future.” Walker served as Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008. InfrastructureUSA recently spoke with him in New York City.

Excerpts from that conversation:

We must have civic engagement on a whole range of issues.  Look, we need to make some very difficult choices as a country as to how we’re going to  restructure government,  where are we going to  invest more, where are we going to have to cut back, how are we going to  set our priorities, and how are we going to determine what’s working and what’s not working.  You know, civic engagement is important to help make sure that we understand where the public’s coming from, and they understand the need for action, the benefits for action, the consequences of inaction, and quite frankly, we don’t do enough of it in this country.

People take certain things for granted until there’s a problem.  They take for granted the fact that they can get from point A to point B, or that they have reliable electricity or that they have clean water, or  that they have safe bridges — but then when something bad happens, they realize  how important they are, and  that they have taken them for granted.

We’ve really got two issues on infrastructure.  One issue is we’ve got a tremendous amount of deferred maintenance with regard to our existing infrastructure, which represents a challenge, including the safety in many regards.  And then secondly,  we’re falling behind, quite frankly, many other nations, including developing nations, with regard to developing modern infrastructure for the twenty-first century. We were ahead much of the world for a long time.  And now, you’ve got developing nations, like China and India, who are leapfrogging technologies, and we need to pick up the pace.

The first three words of the constitution are the most important: “We the People.” “We the People” have a responsibility to be informed and involved, in order to let our elected representatives know what’s important to us,what we want, what we need, and what we’re willing to support. And quite frankly we’ve got a situation right now where there’s a big disconnect. And it’s threatening our future.

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