Wednesday, July 30, 2014

UCLA Water Main Break: A WPA could have prevented that

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

On Tuesday, a water main that was installed around 1921 broke near UCLA. Eight to ten million gallons of water caused damage across the campus, including flooding the Pauley Pavilion--a sports arena that "recently underwent a $132 million renovation" (see "UCLA Broken Water Pipe Floods Parts of Campus").

This incident was hardly an isolated one. For example, in Baltimore, up to 20 percent of public water is lost through leaking and breaks (see "Baltimore's leaky infrastructure seeping into city's budget"). Many of the water lines that Americans use today were installed by New Deal work & construction programs (three quarters of a century ago) and have lasted longer than they were intended to. Some water lines, like the one that broke near UCLA, are even older. It's time for an upgrade. Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's water line system a "D" letter grade, noting "At the dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States."

(WPA laborers working on a water main project in Cumberland, Maryland, 1937. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

During the New Deal, WPA workers installed 16,000 miles of new water lines across the country. These water lines have served multiple generations. We could do the same today (and it's well past time to) if Republicans in Congress weren't so focused on suing Obama, casting the unemployed as lazy parasites, and giving tax breaks to billionaires.

In the above-referenced article about Baltimore, journalist John Schoen highlights how "a typical family of four has seen their water and sewer bills jump nearly 50 percent since 2008. In July city officials voted to boost water and sewer rates by another 42 percent over three years." This is a phenomenon that is occurring across the country. As corporations move offshore to avoid paying taxes, and as super-wealthy Americans are enjoying some of the most favorable tax rates of the past 100 years, the revenue burden is falling on middle and low-income Americans, in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the local level. As Schoen explains, "cities will have to continue going it alone, as both federal and state support continues to dry up." Federal support, in particular, is diminished by tax evasion & avoidance by many super-wealthy Americans (as well as their low effective tax rates) and also by Republicans & Tea Partiers who obstruct most spending bills, even infrastructure spending bills.


(Michele Bachmann--the unhinged U.S. Congresswoman from Minnesota--explains how Republicans are going to sue Obama, de-fund the Executive Branch, and impeach elected officials. Even Fox News commentator Niel Cavuto, a staunch conservative, is bewildered by Bachmann, telling her, "You're being silly." Indeed she is, as are just about all Republicans in Congress. Instead of trying to help struggling Americans and improve the nation's infrastructure, they're focused on hating Obama and scolding low-income Americans. Original YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eswz4Fjrw20.)

We need a new, and even stronger New Deal. Unfortunately, because of the voting (or non-voting) tendencies of millions of Americans, all we're likely to get are more politicians like Michele Bachmann (mentally unstable), or Hillary Clinton (funded and controlled by the big banks). Hence, our infrastructure will continue to deteriorate and we will continue to have our stagnant incomes hammered by regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines. But look at the bright side--at least the Koch brothers are adding more money to their wallets! Yippee! (See "Koch Brothers Net Worth Soars Past $100 Billion")

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