Third World, Here We Come!

4 comments April 5th, 2007at 12:03pm Posted by Eli

Bob Herbert chimes in with yet another way in which the United States is turning into a banana republic (I won’t say anything about how Old our Navy is, or the income Gap between the rich and everyone else):

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. infrastructure is in sad shape, and it would take more than a trillion and a half dollars over a five-year period to bring it back to a reasonably adequate condition.


[A]s we learned with New Orleans, there are consequences to neglecting the infrastructure. Just a little over a year ago, a dam in Hawaii gave way, unleashing a wave 70 feet high and 200 yards wide. It swept away virtually everything in its path, including cars, houses and trees. Seven people drowned.

On the day after Christmas in Portland, Ore., a sinkhole opened up like something from a science fiction movie and swallowed a 25-ton sewer- repair truck. Authorities blamed the sinkhole on the collapse of aging underground pipes.

Blackouts, school buildings in advanced states of disrepair, decrepit highway and railroad bridges – the American infrastructure is growing increasingly old and obsolete. In addition to being an invitation to tragedy, this is a problem that is putting Americans at a disadvantage in the ever more competitive global economy.


[Investment banker Felix Rohatyn] recently told a House committee that Congress should begin a major effort to rebuild the American infrastructure “before it is too late.”

“Since the beginning of the republic,” he said, “transportation, infrastructure and education have played a central role in advancing the American economy, whether it was the canals in upstate New York, or the railroads that linked our heartland to our industrial centers; whether it was the opening of education to average Americans by land grant colleges and the G.I. bill, making education basic to American life; or whether it was the interstate highway system that ultimately connected all regions of the nation.

“This did not happen by chance, but was the result of major investments financed by the federal and state governments over the last century and a half. … We need to make similar investments now.”


“A modern economy needs a modern platform, and that’s the infrastructure,” Mr. Rohatyn said in an interview. “It has been shown that the productivity of an economy is related to the quality of its infrastructure. For example, if you don’t have enough schools to teach your kids, or your kids are taught in schools that have holes in the ceilings, that are dilapidated, they’re not going to be as educated and as competitive in a world economy as they need to be.”

As Herbert points out, this is an incredibly unsexy story – it’s the media and political equivalent of telling someone to eat their spinach. But here’s what I don’t understand: politicians are all about securing federal money to take back to their districts and states to fund pet projects; why can’t more of those pet projects be infrastructure-related? Instead of using pork to build bridges to nowhere, why not use it to shore up bridges that actually serve a useful purpose?

Politicians can accomplish their goal of bringing money and jobs back home, while at the same time actually improving their state’s ability to compete in the national and global marketplace, thus creating even more jobs?

We probably don’t spend $300 billion a year on pork, but I bet we spend enough to make a serious dent in our infrastructure problems. Let’s put that money to good use.

Entry Filed under: Politics


  • 1. charley  |  April 5th, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    we need that money for more war.

    bombs are sexy!

    well, depending which end of the bomb your on.

    go Slim Pickens.

  • 2. Eli  |  April 5th, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Bombs are da bomb.

    But even with a war on, there’s always money for pork. Why not put it to good use?

  • 3. Interrobang  |  April 6th, 2007 at 5:40 am

    It’s really simple. It’s part of the anti-government long-term plan to convince people that the government really can’t do infrastructure, so all that stuff should be turned over to the private sector. Results: Private roads, private water supplies, charter schools, Enron again and again and again, important public-safety projects going neglected because they aren’t cost-effective, and an effective return to the days before public fire brigades and the Rural Electrification initiatives. Other result: A massive transfer of wealth from the general public to the very wealthy, when things that were previously owned by the state become property of private investors and corporations, and when the average person finds themselves having to pay artificial-scarcity prices for every commodity they once financed with their taxes.

    Another tine on this fork (as in stick a … in it, it’s done) is the relentless pushing of the meme that the average person gets nothing whatsoever from government, except for intrusions into private life and bad laws.

  • 4. Eli  |  April 6th, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Only suckers use government to help ordinary people. Everyone knows that government should only be used to reward your friends and beat down your enemies.

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