Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Water & sewer bills are rising all over the United States, while the Forbes 400 laugh all the way to the bank. Americans need a New Deal.

(WPA workers installing a sewer line in Elkton, Maryland, 1937. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

All across America water & sewer bills are being increased (or being threatened with increase) to pay for the repair or replacement of old infrastructure--in St. Paul, Minnesota; southern Nevada; St. Louis, Missouri; Newark, New Jersey; Fountain Hills, Arizona; Franklin Park, Illinois; Denison, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and San Jose, California, to name just a few. In June 2014, Bloomberg News reported that "More than one-fifth of U.S. water utilities may need to increase rates at least 10 percent annually over the next decade to cover costs primarily from aging infrastructure, according to a report by Black & Veatch Corp." ("U.S. Water Utilities May Raise Rates to Repair Old Pipes")        

Meanwhile, federal assistance for infrastructure improvement is falling by the wayside. Why? Because of decades of tax cuts for the super-wealthy and thus a federal government less able & willing to help. (See, e.g., "U.S. infrastructure spending has plummeted since 2008," "The Stunning Collapse Of Infrastructure Spending In One Chart," "Drop in Infrastructure Spending Drives Highway Builders Off Road," and "Senate GOP blocks $60B Obama infrastructure plan"). 

During the New Deal, massive federal investments were directed towards American infrastructure, through work & construction programs like the PWA, WPA, and CWA. Local communities were often asked to contribute towards the cost of these New Deal infrastructure projects, but they didn't have to bear the brunt of it. (So successful was the WPA's infrastructure work that even limited government icon Ronald Reagan praised the program in his autobiography.)

Today, the story is quite different. Many of our congressional "leaders" have been bought by the super-wealthy, and so they craft public policy to the advantage of the super-wealthy (e.g., tax cuts, deductions, and loopholes). Hence, the Forbes 400 recently increased their wealth by $270 billion. Meanwhile, middle- and low-income Americans (who are already struggling to make ends meet) are being forced to pay higher water & sewer bills--as well as a host of other increased & regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the state & local level--to repair or replace old infrastructure.

So, as you pay your higher water bill--and as you also pay your higher sales tax, property tax, bridge tolls, tuition fees, car registration fees, and parking fines--realize that you are subsidizing tax evasion, tax avoidance, and historically low tax rates for the super-wealthy. And realize that the Forbes 400 are laughing about it.....all the way to the bank.

We need another New Deal.

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