Saturday, August 04, 2007

Infrastructure and Shit

Let me first say that I deeply sympathize with the friends and families of those who were lost in the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I hope that they can take some comfort knowing that the country is thinking of them and wishing them well. That said, I am glad it happened.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to focus on a problem that we would otherwise ignore. We needed a wake up call to focus on a huge problem. Our current president has decreased taxes and cut funding to every program except the war in Iraq for the past 61/2 years. That means ignoring the federal government's obligation to maintain the national highway system. Some intrastate roadways here in Illinois have been under a constant state of repair since I was born. Route 80 ran right by the small town I grew up in and I have never had a trip on it in my life where I didn't see some sort of repairs going on. These repairs are generally paid for by the state and so the standard for how the roads are engineered fall to the states that dump money into repairing these roadways. As such, their have been lots of mistakes and underfunding of these projects for decades. I think that creating a national infrastructure commission that would direct the efforts of the states (if not take the helm and the responsibility of maintaining national roadways from states) that would be paid for by a national tax on gasoline is in order.

As unpopular as it sounds, America needs to start facing the fact that we need to pay for the things we have and want. We cannot keep cutting taxes and expect the bridges, dams, canals and other public facilities to hold up forever. It's just not practical. Americans are so afraid of taxes that they fail to think of the massive benefits we can reap from public works projects. FDR's public works programs employed hundreds of thousands while repairing our economy. History tells us that with sacrifice comes great rewards. Our country has forgotten that to a great degree.

Why do we walk down the street and see something broken and ask, "Why doesn't somebody fix that?" Then we walk on down past the plastic bags blowing through the streets and let our dogs shit in our neighbors yards. We should be asking ourselves, "What can I do to fix this?" I try to do something for my neighborhood whenever I can and I think that all of us together can do something great for this country if we just took responsibility for it. Let's stop waiting for someone else to fix everything and get our fat asses back on track.


bigsoda said...

Amen, Brother.

Erik said...

I know what you mean by being glad it happened even though my commute is now about 10 miles longer.

I think what you meant is not that you're "glad" it happened, rather that it is illustrative of the idea that government can, and must do good and is an even better illustration of what is wrong with the conservative movement's idea that government spending is bad and that people can spend their money better than the government can.

Just as this tragedy may have been avoided had my Governor not forced the DOT to do things on the cheap, but countless emergency room visits - subsidized by taxes - could be avoided if we instead subsidized health insurance and thereby preventative health care.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Well said, Michael. And wasn't lack of funding also a problem with Katrina a couple years back? Not the nation's response, per se, but the state of the levy in the first place?

But that's the "big picture" portion of this dilemma. You hit on another important point here insofar as what *we* do in the day-to-day can make a difference, too.

For example: twice in the past week, I've picked up a nail from the parking lot, in an attempt to keep someone (anyone) from getting a flat. No one notices I do this, but there's a good chance someone (possibly even me) would've at least suffered the consequences if I hadn't.

A small thing to do, I know, but it goes along with the idea that if we all just thought a little more about our actions — and actually took action from time to time — we could make someone's day a little less stressful.

Beth said...

Excellent post.

Atlanta's infrastructure is such a mess. Our water pipes were built early in the 20th century, and are now crumbling. Our previous mayor was a man of under-the-tables and croneyism, so nothing was done during his eight years in office. Our current mayor is doing an excellent job, but she's had to spend much of her time cleaning up his messes.

Look at the gas main break near Grand Central last month. It's a serious problem.

BTW, did you see Newt’s declaration? I don't support him in the least (I have the scars to prove it) — but at least he had the balls to say what few Republicans will.

Grant Miller said...

Politicians are terrified of being seen as free-spenders. And certainly there are numerous pork projects that don't need federal money. But infrastructure does. Unfortunately, it's not very sexy.