Few presidential candidates on either side have proposed with any specificity what I would term a "big idea" or a plan to make a real impact on the most important issue facing this country: ensuring that the middle class have good jobs and can live the American Dream.

The most important thing government can do is to help the private sector build a growing middle class. One proven method is to commit to a national campaign to rebuild and repair infrastructure. Our failing infrastructure is the Achilles heel of the American economy.

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The term infrastructure sounds wonky. You drive on roads, not infrastructure. You cross a river on a bridge not on an infrastructure. Infrastructure investment means private sector jobs with good money for Americans. Jobs repairing roads and bridges, modernizing airports or railways and redesigning power grids to accommodate new forms of energy generation. It's economics 101, folks. When people have jobs and an income they spend more money on goods and services. When goods and services are transported at a lower cost, businesses invest and grow. Every dollar spent on infrastructure projects bounces around the economy, providing value at an exponential rate.

Historically the government has enacted big investments in infrastructure development. President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system, and FDR put people to work electrifying rural areas and building large public works. These initiatives had heavy congressional involvement. These large investments, facilitated through the private sector, demonstrated leadership by the federal government and an optimistic, can do attitude from politicians. Such an investment today would have an enormous economic impact and help restore the trust in government that the American people have lost in the last several decades. It would also create good, private sector jobs for millions of people.

Of course these investments need to be large to have substantial impact. To date, politicians talk a good game about infrastructure investment, but they seem afraid to say anything about how they will pay for it. Payment usually means taxes, something few politicians want to talk about. But no big initiative to fix our infrastructure can be free. The first step is to raise the gas tax. The federal gas tax is currently 18.4 cents and hasn't risen since 1997. The current rate is not enough to fund basic transportation costs and upkeep for the country. Raising taxes is difficult, but we should have an honest debate on this and the presidential election process is a good venue for such a debate.

In addition to raising the gas tax there are some innovative proposals including one put forth by Maryland's Congressman John Delaney. His plan would subject profits accumulated by U.S. multi-national corporations kept overseas to a one-time repatriation tax of 8.75 percent. Corporations bringing money back would pay a significantly lower amount than the current rate. This proposal would raise billions of dollars to be used on infrastructure investment. These tax dollars would benefit workers, the economy and the American multi-national businesses themselves by providing better ways to get their goods to market.

The famous architect Daniel Burnham once said, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." At least one of the multitude of presidential candidates should propose a big plan to develop and pay for infrastructure investment. If they don't then the media should use the debate season to press this issue with the candidates. A big plan proposed by a political leader, and a commitment to see it through, would show a weary American public that their government can still make a positive impact on their lives, create a huge boost in the American job market and do what is best for our country's future.

Dan Glickman is a former longtime Kansas congressman and secretary of agriculture from 1995 to 2001 under Bill Clinton. He is currently vice president at the Aspen Institute and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Twitter: @DanRGlickman.

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