Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Deteriorated Infrastructure

A disregard for human needs indicates a dehumanized, immoral society. Americans need a functional infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers asserts. In the book by Frank Luntz mentioned in a previous entry here, I note that he wants Republican politicians speak often, almost obssessively, in terms of security. Where the infrastructure is so disparaged by civil engineers, there is a lack of personal and national security. Our needs will not be met, we will negotiate dangerous situations unsupported.

Here is the story from two sources.

Quote: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. roads, bridges, sewers and dams are crumbling and need a $1.6 trillion overhaul but prospects for improvement are grim, the American Society of Civil Engineers said in a report issued on Wednesday. ..."If we treated our own homes like we treat our infrastructure, we'd all live in shacks," said ASCE president William Henry. ...The report said that since 2001, the conditions of the country's roads, drinking water system, public transit, wastewater disposal, hazardous waste disposal, navigable waterways and energy system had worsened.
The nation's drinking water system alone needed a public investment of $11 billion a year to replace facilities, comply with regulations and meet future needs. But federal funding reached less than 10 percent of this amount. As a result, aging wastewater systems were discharging billions of gallons of untreated sewage into surface waters each year, the report said. End quote.

There is the little-heard phrase: public investment. Public investment means taxes, user fees, and tolls of various types to pay for infrastructural maintenance or improvement. Public investment is money that works for all the people in the here and now, not for the few who have extra c-notes to invest. Public investment is a dirty word in the minds of Republicans. They'd rather disembowel themselves than suggest it's necessary. Public investment is the thing Republicans wish to replace with the free market.

Quote: As of 2003, 27 percent of the nation's bridges were structurally deficient or obsolete, a slight improvement from 28.5 percent in 2000.end quote.

The second source provides more detailed information: the website of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Quote: Congested highways, overflowing sewers and corroding bridges are constant reminders of the looming crisis that jeopardizes our nation's prosperity and our quality of life. With new grades for the first time since 2001, our nation's infrastructure has shown little to no improvement since receiving a collective D+ in 2001, with some areas sliding toward failing grades. end quote.

The message of their website is clear: be worried, be very worried.

I used to be nervous whenever vehicles I was riding in negotiated bridges. I knew that the driver's skill and the vehicle's safety features would never be enough to keep me from danger if the bridge fell at any point during crossing.No amount of prayer or trust in God will keep you safe from disease or poison if the water you are drinking is adulterated. If there is no public transit in a town, it is likely that if you are legally blind or otherwise incapable of driving, you will not be able to hold a job, find a way to the doctor or the grocery store without paying much money. You will be dependent on the kindness of the community you live in. Trust me, independence, even in a rudimentary form, is always preferable to the disabled individual. If sewage remains untreated, it carries pathogens like giardiasis and typhoid fever, both of which are highly contagious and known to be severely debilitating over long periods of time.
Washington's regime, the federal government, spent 87 plus billion dollars with the imprimatur of Congress on an external war, in a country where the infrastructure remains wrecked for the most part. Much of public investment is called "pork barrel." It's the kind of bring home the bacon type spending legislators like to show to their constituents-- evidence that they're actually serving the public. No doubt they believe the free market must supplant public investment in infrastructure. That's what their silence tells me.

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