10 December 2012

It’s the infrastructure…Stupid!

(Pot hole in New Orleans: found at : http://librarychronicles.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html .)

At the present moment, in Washington all talk is focused on the “fiscal cliff. “  However, something bigger is looming; our crumbling infrastructure and insufficient Federal funding.  Well-maintained infrastructure is essential for the economic health of the nation and particularly for urban areas.  Bridges, roads, transit systems, airports, water/sewer systems, and electrical grids are in grave need of repair and expansion.  The problem with our highways and bridges has been known for a significant amount of time, perhaps more than 30 years. This is not a complicated issue.  When you build things, you must maintain them or eventually see their deterioration. This is very evident in the aging Interstate and Defense Highway System, of which many miles are located in urbanized areas, leaking sanitary and water systems; numerous deteriorating bridges in all states and cities, and worn rapid transit tracks. 

Recently, hurricane/tropical storm Sandy proved the vulnerability our urban infrastructure.  It will take months to rebuild all that was damaged in just a few hours. However, some of the infrastructure was in grave need of repair before this natural disaster.  Although denied by some, Sandy was a wakeup call to many that global warming is a reality and not some ‘leftist’ propaganda.  The rebuilding of infrastructure along coastal areas due to Sandy is merely to return to status quo.  What should be in process is rebuilding of infrastructure in accordance with possible erosion, sea water rise and the possibility of possible future storms of the same or greater magnitude.

Those in Washington and in the media are in a panic if we “fall off the fiscal cliff. There will be tax increases, and program reduction across the board.  The Republicans seem to be obsessed with not letting the tax rates rise to that during Clinton era.  Obama is pushing increases to taxes above $250,000 and keeping the social net intact. Republicans want to cut social programs.  All these issues are ignoring the obvious that major infrastructure improvements such as the Trans-Continental Railroad and the Interstate and Defense Highway System were far more important that gaining more revenue or cutting expenditures.  They created jobs, brought about additional development and led the U.S. to be the largest economy in the world.   Other major infrastructure improvements also occurred during the1930s related to the Works Project Administration.  These were not ‘make work projects’ but damns, bridges, public park improvement and other physical structures that are still among us. With infrastructure failure and the needs of new infrastructure not being met, reducing the deficit will be least of the concerns of the U.S.  Urban areas will be gravely hurt by failing infrastructure.  Job creation, social welfare and revenue generation all pend upon maintaining and expanding infrastructure.

The prescription for prosperity will not be found in financial manipulations such as raising debt ceiling, taxing the top 2% more, or cutting programs; although the failure to address them will stifle our economy in the short term; but, creating the necessary support or infrastructure for job creation, economic prosperity, security, health and better quality of life for all the citizens of the U.S.  In the short term, the U.S. will experience higher debts as major building programs are initiated.  But, in the long term, it will lead to an era of greater prosperity.  However, these programs should be tempered with sound knowledge and in the context of sustainability, energy resources and a highly interconnected world.  

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