Posts Tagged ‘Crumbling infrastructure’

The infrastructure bill is a built-in failure

June 25, 2021

American infrastructure is in a bad way.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers:

  • There is a water main break somewhere in the USA every two minutes.
  • About 43 percent of U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • The USA has an estimated 40,000 miles of flood control levees.  The location and/or condition of 10,000 miles of them is unknown.
  • The ASCE’s overall rating of U.S. infrastructure is C-minus.

If reports are accurate, the compromise infrastructure bill agreed to by the Senate will not meet the USA’s infrastructure needs.  It has failure built in.

The ASCE estimates than an additional $2.58 trillion is needed in the next 10 years to bring U.S. public works up to a B level.  The compromise infrastructure bill is only $579 billion. 

Only a fraction of that will go to actual infrastructure.  Much of it will go to welfare programs and corporate subsidies.

And it will be financed neither by increased taxes on the rich (best) nor by borrowing or money creation (acceptable because it is an investment in the nation’s future wealth), but by raiding funds appropriated for other purposes and, worst of all, by selling off or leasing public assets.

The problem with privatization is shown by the City of Chicago’s selling a private company the right to collect parking meter revenues for 75 years.  The city met a short-term revenue shortfall by imposing an additional cost on the public.

Some of the non-infrastructure things in the infrastructure bill are necessary and good.  Others need more discussion.  I’m not opposed to subsidies for corporate research and development, but there should be some way to guarantee that the benefits help to build up the American economy.

Better than nothing?  A plan that merely allows the USA to deteriorate at a slower rate is not good enough.

LINKS

American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card – executive summary.

American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card – full text.

Biden’s Infrastructure Capitulation by Jack Rasmus.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Is Embarrassing by Benjamin Studebaker.

Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal ‘a Disaster in the Making’ by Jessica Corbett for Common Dreams.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Stalking Horse for Privatization by David Dayen for The American Prospect.  [Added 7/1/2021]

America’s infrastructure deficit

July 12, 2011

President Bill Clinton was accused of playing word games when he described his government spending proposals as “investments.”

But what is an investment?  Investment is an expenditure that creates new wealth, or maintains the nation’s ability to produce wealth.

We need a minimum of military spending so that our armed forces can defend the nation, but this is not an investment.  I am in favor of giving a minimum of support the elderly and the disabled, but this is not an investment.

Spending money on scientific research is an investment, because new knowledge is of economic benefit.  Spending money on public education is an investment, because an educated public is of economic benefit.   Maintenance of the basic physical infrastructure is an investment, because well-functioning transportation, communication and water and sewerage utilities are necessary to a functioning economy.

The United States has allowed its physical infrastructure to shockingly deteriorate.  The Urban Land Institute issued a report saying that it will take $2 trillion to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewerage systems and dams now nearing the end of their life cycles.

The report envisions a time when, like Detroit, U.S. cities may opt to abandon services in some districts and when lightly used blacktopped rural roads would be allowed to return to nature.  Eventually, the report says, the federal gasoline tax will be increased; local governments will be allowed to toll interstate highways; water bills will rise to pay for pipe and sewer replacement; property and sales taxes will increase; and private, profit-seeking companies will play a much larger role in funding and maintaining public projects.

“Over the next five to 10 years, public concerns will grow over evident declines in the condition of infrastructure,” the report says.  “At some attention-getting point after infrastructure limps along, platforms for reinvesting in America could gain significant traction and public support.”

… …The report says the desire of Congress to curtail spending will push costs onto “budget-busted” state and local governments.  It points to highways and water treatment plants, built with federal funds 40 to 50 years ago, that will become financial burdens to local governments as the time comes for replacement.

via The Washington Post.

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