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June 30, 2017


As a retired person, I spend winters in Florida and summers here in Michigan. When driving to and from “town” here in Michigan, I am obliged to dodge chuckholes to save the axles on my Chevrolet. I suppose most people in such “dodgem” situations would be thinking during and after such trips about how we should fix those roads – someday. I have a different reaction. I think of how this state’s Republican governor and legislature hand out giant tax cuts to their friends in the rich and corporate class while the rest of us are dodging chuckholes and wonder why (aside from political contributions for the next election) such politicians have the chutzpah to look the rest of us in the eye and tell us that more money for the already rich over using such money to fix chuckholes is in the public interest. I disagree. I think more money for the already rich is in the politicians’ interest (see political contributions aka bribes).

I thought several years ago when a bridge in Minnesota collapsed killing 13 people  and injuring 145 that, finally, such a disaster would trigger a hue and cry in the Congress and state legislatures for repair and renewal of America’s infrastructure. I was wrong. Nothing happened. The chuckholes and rotten bridges are still with us awaiting the next catastrophe (which the American Society of Civil Engineers assure us will come to pass while grading our infrastructure with a D +). We have the numbers on the Minnesota tragedy, but my guess is that many more are dead and injured from motorists’ dodging chuckholes causing head-on and other collisions, and speaking of nothing’s happening, nothing has happened on the political front to this day; the politicians are still handing out big tax cuts to the rich and corporate class while the rest of us are dodging chuckholes and risking injury and death. It appears that enriching the rich with our money (in politicians’ jaundiced judgment) is even more important than life itself. Money talks, as the old adage goes. . .

It is not just roads and bridges in dire need of repair and renewal. Our railroads, power grids and water supply (see the lead pipes of Flint, Michigan) are aging but ignored by politicians anxious to fill the coffers of those who finance their campaigns rather than repair and update our infrastructure. Elizabeth Warren in her new book, This Fight is our Fight, writes that “One economist calculates that, adjusted for depreciation, America currently spends nothing – zero – on infrastructure.” So while even China has bullet trains and is rapidly building 21st century infrastructure, we are in a (relatively speaking) horse and buggy age where we find funding of the rich for their campaign contributions  a better use of scarce public resources than an updated renewal of our infrastructure.

As Warren points out in her book above cited, “The failure to invest in clean energy has left us with a dirty supply system that pumps poison into the air and an aging power grid that is vulnerable to storms and rising sea levels,” (to which I would add terrorist attack). “The failure to invest in new communications means that many small towns and rural areas have been delayed in their chance to participate in much of the high-tech boom.” Similar criticism can be lodged in our failure to keep up our 84,000 dams and levees (see Katrina in New Orleans and the 16 lives lost around Baton Rouge as recently as 2016.

The failure to keep up our infrastructure doesn’t save us any money. In fact, our failure to invest in our infrastructure (quite aside from chuckholes, collapsing bridges and deaths) costs us money and makes no sense. We are paying the price already and will be paying a heavier one in a global economy. As Warren writes about our failure to invest in our infrastructure, “It means that we’re planning to compete for jobs and resources and markets in the coming decades wearing a blindfold, handcuffed, and with our shoelaces tied together. This plan isn’t pro-business. This plan is pro-stupid.” She is right. Doing nothing about our infrastructure is not only not in the public interest but is not even in the long term interest of the coddled rich currently enjoying political handouts of corporate welfare while the rest of the world in our competitive global economy leaves us in the dust. Thus we are stuck at 2.5 percent of GDP for infrastructure spending while China is spending 8.6 percent of its GDP for infrastructure spending. By this measurement, we are now even lagging behind India, the Middle East, most of Asia and the Middle East. The only region spending less on infrastructure than the United States is South America, which comes in a smidgen lower at 2.4 percent of GDP.

Warren rightly points out that a first-rate infrastructure would give America a crucial advantage in the competition for twenty-first-century jobs, but that a crumbling infrastructure is a drag on new investment by forward-looking companies and an obstacle to the successful launch of new companies, writing that “When we fail to invest in infrastructure, it’s as if everyone in America is joining hands and saying, ‘Let’s get poor together.’”

So what now? Do we invest in the future of America and Americans or do we hand out our tax money in the form of corporate welfare to those who don’t need it and (contrary to trickle-down theory) don’t re-invest it into our economy? The answer seems painfully obvious to me, so current corporate propaganda to the contrary, I am in favor of helping the rest of us (and in the long run) even the rich and corporate class as first-class infrastructure makes us a far stronger competitor in the global economy with the further positive result that both capital and labor prosper.

So let’s get to work (as our competitors already are). As Snuffy Smith and Barney Google used to exclaim in an old comic strip, “Time’s a wastin!” – and indeed it is, so let’s go.      GERALD      E

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