American folklore holds that Senator Everett Dirksen once quipped: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money” when referring to congressional spending. Whether true or not, the sentiment is apropos right now. This week, Congress approved a $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Spending Bill, which President Biden signed into law yesterday. That’s a lot of billions here and there. 1,900 of them to be exact. And, this is likely not the last of big spending commitments. (There is already talk of a MASSIVE infrastructure bill in the works for May 2021 passage.)
Intended to help keep the American people, our businesses, and our communities solvent, this is a massive boost to GDP. If all of this is spent in one year, it is the equivalent of a ~10% turbo-injection of liquidity into the American economy. More likely, the money will be spent over several years, but still will have incredible impact on the economy. Hopefully, we are intelligently “investing” not just “spending.” Beyond the direct cash transfers to many of our citizens – which I believe are needed – my sincere hope is we, and I mean the collective “We The People”, are very strategic about how we invest. Past economic growth cycles have followed large infrastructure investments, including: The Rural Electrification Act, the Interstate Highway System, The Communications Act of 1934, The California State Water Project, The Alaska Pipeline, etc. These are a few examples of infrastructure investments that built the country we call home. This country is in dire need of new and expanded infrastructure. Our population will grow from our current 330 million citizens to 440 million in 2050. That means we need to build 30% more of EVERYTHING we as a country have built, and we need to do it in the next 30 years. This is in addition to fixing our outdated, crumbling, and woefully inadequate infrastructure. And, we cannot expect Government to build – or fund – all of this. But, Government can help guide and shape the agenda with grants, awards, regulation, tax incentives, and the bully pulpit. The Government can convene and assemble interested parties, lay out agendas, and shape policies, rules, and regulations that foster innovation and incent the public-private partnerships necessary to pull this off. A really good example of what can – and should – be done can be found at the intersection of President Biden’s Executive Order regarding supply chains and the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety (New Era) blueprint. The New Era calls for public-private partnerships, industry participation and innovation, levels of transparency within our supply chains we’ve never seen before, and digital disclosure to inform regulators and consumers alike. This is a really good thing and a great agenda as it will: 1) create a safer food environment and culture, 2) develop more efficient and resilient supply chains, and 3) create greater trust between companies and customers and consumers. We just committed to spend a lot of “real money”. Let’s invest it wisely to make this a better country, a better place to live…for all of us.