June 18th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I recently suggested a national infrastructure program to repair, insulate, and green the nation’s public schools.  As described here, this is a “dialable” concept that could go from meeting the maintenance backlog to more ambitious retrofits and technology upgrades.

Now I’ve even got a name for it, Fix America’s Schools Today, or FAST.  I think it’s a smart way to get a lot of people who really need jobs back to work, fix a critical part of our institutional infrastructure, save energy costs, provide kids with a better, healthier learning environment, and do so in way that everyone can see and feel good about each morning when they drop their kids at school.

If you’re not yet convinced, check out this article from one of my favorite economic journals, People, which did a pretty compelling feature on the problem.  If this doesn’t prove the broad appeal of FAST, then I don’t know what would.


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10 comments in reply to "FAST!"

  1. Michael says:

    While I think it’s hilarious that “building schools” has moved from an Afghanistan/Iraq fix-everything to an America fix-everything, this is a subset of “catch up on our maintenance”, so sure.

    In a general sense, I get it — if you fix schools, the benefits largely flow to students, who are “deserving.” That’s better than fixing transportation infrastructure, where you can’t affect who is assisted by it.

  2. Carol says:

    Politicians are working hard to do away with public schools so why bother?

  3. Mitchell Freedman says:

    I thought you and Paul Krugman decided that your former boss, Joe Biden, and his boss, Barack Obama, don’t want to do things like this…

    I still think you’re right in your prescription, and sadly, I think you are right about Biden and Obama not wanting to pursue this policy. They want to run against Republicans in 2012 with no slogan other than “The Other People Are Nuts.”

    I mean, really, Jared, did you read about how Wall St. is “exasperated” with Obama? If Wall St. is “exasperated,” what adjective could possibly describe how labor feels about Obama? Oy.

  4. Jeff H says:

    Little good that will do if there are no teachers left to teach.

    We are really in a disturbing point in the history of America. This congress will never approve of a single dime that will help anyone as long as Obama is president.

  5. urban legend says:

    And if Obama and the Democratic leadership would say so, and keep saying it every time the Republicans say we can’t afford it or otherwise refuse to do anything, Americans would get it and start changing the politics: this (and other infrastructure work) is long-neglected work that fits permanent social need — in other words, real, permanent and long-term jobs that the right-wing obsession with reducing taxes have kept us from doing. It is the other hole in our national employment, along with devastated manufacturing employment, that is the critical difference between a 58-point-something employment-to-population ratio today and the nearly 65% we had in 2000. A vocal commitment to real, Davis-Bacon, permanent jobs doing things the country really needs, and not temporary jobs or tax breaks designed solely to generate immediate income, are what are going to restore the consumer confidence necessary to move to full employment.

    Can’t afford to do it? Like bus fare to get to a job interview, we can’t afford not to do it. Get middle class buying power back? Try (1) more demand for labor, as in the above; (2) encouragement of restoring union political and economic power; (3) making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes as the priority step for long-term deficit reduction. Without middle class buying power — that’s middle class discretionary income, which I hardly ever hear anyone talking about as the result of inequality — this country is going nowhere.

    Perhaps as in the civil rights, antiwar and feminism movements, where wealthy kids helped turn the country in the right direction, the younger generation of the wealthy will get that, and learn (and spend their own money to convince others) never to trust anyone who thinks like the Koch brothers. The wealthy will always be with us, and their untold wealth cannot be easily counter-acted after this Supreme Court has once again done its political thing. Only by dividing and conquering, mostly along generational lines it seems, will we move in a better direction.

  6. Adam Soto says:

    This sounds a bit like the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act that was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 and 2009. It passed both times but was never taken up by the Senate.

  7. John says:

    Is this another shovel-ready project? Isn’t this what the 800-900 Billion stimulus was supposed to be doing?

    Would you first have to have an environmental study done on each school to make sure you weren’t disturbing some snail?

    And would you have to pay “prevailing” wage so every project would be feather bedded?

    It sounds like you want to get the federal government further involved in state education responsibility.

  8. maggie banks says:

    The FAST! program is a winning idea! Everyone wins, not simply students.

    It invests in American infrastructure. It repairs our schools.
    Students learn more in a healthy, sound environment.

    It reduces unemployment—especially hard-hit construction workers.

    It turns people on unemployment benefits into TAXPAYERS, who grow the economy and reduce the deficit!

    There is nothing to dislike about this program.


  9. On The Housing Market as a Driver of Stimulus | Rortybomb says:

    […] is proposed needs to be focused on three things: size, speed and smarts.  Jared Bernstein’s FAST stimulus program is an example of this.  I think getting the housing and foreclosure markets under control is a […]

  10. F Simmons says:


    There is already a program in place that is funding this type of construction. Refer to for an accounting of the way states like TEXAS and FLORIDA are taking full advantage of the funds from this program… without actually giving credit to the program that provided the funds.

    Why do we need a new, separate program for this, when we haven’t even spent half of the stimulus (ARRA) funds?