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Thomas L. Friedman

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An interesting thought occurred to me today—what if industrial giants sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our transportation crisis?

With the election season over, maybe you’ve forgotten about transportation, but I certainly haven’t. It would be easy to forget that the problem even exists, when our headlines are constantly splashed with the violence in Guinea, the authoritarian crackdown in Egypt and the still-unstable democratic transition in Malaysia. But the transportation problem is growing, and politicians are more divided than ever. Republicans seem to think that transportation can just be ignored. Democratic politicians like Dianne Feinstein, on the other hand, seem to think that nonsensical rhetoric will substitute for a argument.

But the Democratic party of Dianne Feinstein is not the Democratic party of Bill Clinton. Clinton wouldn’t just filibuster, he'd break ranks with members of his own party because he'd understand that the fate of the country, and his own political career, depended on a lasting solution to the problem of transportation.

Let's make America for the world what Cape Canaveral was to America: the world's greatest launching pad. If I had fifteen minutes to pitch my idea to politicians, I'd tell them two things about transportation. First, there's no way around the issue unless we're prepared to spend less: and not just spend less, but spend smarter by investing in the kind of human capital that makes countries succeed. That's going to require some tax cuts as well, but as they say, "Ya gotta get down to brass tacks."

Second, I'd tell them to look at Finland, which all but solved its transportation crisis over the past decade. When I visited Finland in 2004, Tintin, the cabbie who drove me from the airport, couldn't stop telling me about how he had to take a third job because of the high cost of transportation. I caught up with Tintin in Helsinki last year. Thanks to Finland's reformed approach toward transportation, Tintin has enough money in his pocket to finally be able to afford a swimming pool for his kids.

That's all it takes. Don't expect to see any solutions as long as politicians insist on playing a high-stakes game of poker with one another. America has to rise above it all.