Sunday, November 16, 2014

20 years to fix a pothole in Macedonia, Ohio? A new WPA could do it right now.

(A WPA road improvement project in Kent County, Maryland, 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

When a man in Macedonia, Ohio, showed pictures of a crumbling road to his city council recently, the response he received didn't exactly inspire him. He heard about a road maintenance schedule and said, "I know about this so-called road schedule. Does that mean that we're never going to fix potholes on Ledge Road until 20 years from now when Ledge Road comes up...You've got to do preventative maintenance."
The road problems in Macedonia, Ohio, are not unique to that area. For example, in 2013 the America Society of Civil Engineers reported that "32% of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing U.S. motorists who are traveling on deficient pavement $67 billion a year, or $324 per motorist, in additional repairs and operating costs...The ultimate cost of poor road conditions is significantly more over time than the cost to maintain those same roads in good condition. For example, after 25 years the cost per lane mile for reconstruction can be more than three times the cost of preservation treatments over the same time period, which can lead to a longer overall life span for the infrastructure."
During the 1930s and early 1940s, New Deal policymakers made monumental investments in our nation's arteries. The WPA, for example, created or improved 650,000 miles of roads, streets, and highways--enough roadwork to go around the planet 26 times. And these roads served as a foundation for our post-World War II economic expansion.

We could do the same today if we weren't locking our doors and hiding under our beds at night, in fear of the socialism bogeyman--and also if we weren't afraid of raising taxes on the "job creators" who, by the way, are doing a crappy job of creating good middle-class jobs (see, e.g., "Wages and Salaries Still Lag as Corporate Profits Surge," "Corporations Pay Historically Low Tax Rates While Lobbying To Make Them Even Lower," and "Banks Make a Billion Dollars A Year Helping Rich Shareholders Avoid Taxes").

Our roads, and our vehicles, need a new WPA.


  1. Hi Brent. A wonderful irony that would help serve to embarrass anyone in the United States that hasn't been put to sleep with old delusions like, "we're the only super power", would be to simply point to the radical change that has happened in China in the recent period. as this article briefly shows in a nation that has taken a 180 degree turn from the cheap labor export orientation given to them by Bush Sr. and Kissinger, to a country committed to modernization using the exact same credit model as FDR did with his reformed Reconstruction Finance Corporation, vast infrastructure development (in the case of the Three Gorges Dam that was modeled off of the Tennessee Valley Authority), a space program that has picked up where John F. Kennedy had intended for us to go before his policies were buried with him, and a foreign policy that reflects FDR's Good Neighbor relationship with other countries. For the dumb Americans who still call the Chinese Communist, merely say that today's polices are simply what Chinese revolutionary (and Christian I might add), Sun yat Sen put forward based on his deep admiration of the United States under leaders like Lincoln. China is thinking and behaving more American than America is, what with Bush and Obama following the Blairs and Camerons around and fostering conflict after conflict.

    1. Yes, unfortunately, a lot of people have bought into the ideology that says "everything-the-government-does-is-communism." In the long-run (and short run too) this is going to really put us behind other countries. I think perhaps the biggest problem, though, is that millions of people are completely politically disengaged. Many people are more concerned with Kim Kardashian's daily wardrobe choices than with policymaking that has a direct impact on their lives. As long as this is the case, substantial action on climate change, stagnant wages, tax evasion by the super-wealthy, etc., is going to be very hard to downright impossible.

  2. Don't give the tiny minority of paid loud mouths who have been screaming about Bolshevism since 1920 too much credence, beyond the average right wingers equating Democrats with Stalin/Hitler, as funny and ludicrous as that might seem when the former Communist dictatorships have changed as radically as FDR did when he dumped Andrew Mellons market tyrany, by adopted FDR's economic policies as the means of modernizing their countries. As far as the economy goes, one old law would kill several birds with one stone, so to speak. There are four bills calling for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall in the 113th Congress. S. 985 (Tom Harkin, D-IA) H.R. 129 (Marcy Kaptur, D-OH) “To repeal certain provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and revive the separation between commercial banking and the securities business, in the manner provided in the Banking Act of 1933, the so-called `Glass-Steagall Act’, and for other purposes.” S. 1282 (Elizabeth Warren, D-MA) H.R. 3711 (John Tierney, D-MA) “This Act may be cited as the ‘21st Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2013’.” Wall Street has fought back with every dirty trick they have of course, which is a problem when you talk with gutless congresspeople and clueless (or Wall Street supplied) staffers who would sooner sell their grandmothers rather than overthrow their Wall Street sugar daddies, no matter if doing so will kill their constituents. On the other hand, addressing the Malthusian mindset that governs what is euphemistically called climate change, but, in reality is the intention of technological austerity and population reduction clothed in terms like reducing your carbon footprint. What difference really, is the deluded religion of the market or the equally deluded religion of Gaia, both of which start from assumptions about non existent universal "laws" that assert that human activity itself upsets the equilibrium of nature (which never existed), or the equilibrium of the market (the usurers and speculators of the financial system).