Sunday, February 8, 2015

Boil water notices, gravel roads, and robbing highway funds: Destroying our infrastructure to please right-wing millionaires & billionaires

(Many Americans have to boil their drinking water when an old water main breaks. Unfortunately, America's energy infrastructure also breaks down quite a bit so, instead of a kitchen burner to boil water, perhaps we'll have to start using a campfire--just like our great-great-great-great grandparents used to do with their drinking water. With so many of our political "leaders" ignoring infrastructure, in the race to cut taxes for their super-wealthy campaign donors, maybe we'll even have to start collecting rainwater to drink. Now, that's progress! Photo by Brent McKee.)

Boiling Water

This past Friday, citizens of Newark, Delaware were told to boil their water because of a break in a 75-year-old water main and the resulting concern about E. Coli contamination. The water main break was just one of a quarter-of-a-million breaks we can expect in our aging water infrastructure this year. Hence, Americans all across the country will have to boil their drinking water. For example, in various parts of West Virginia, there were three boil water notices on February 5th, one on February 4th, seven on February 3rd, one on February 2nd, two on January 30th, two on January 29th, three on January 28th, and so on and so on.

(Insert the voice of the Soup Nazi from "Seinfeld"): "No more paved roads for you!"

(A newly paved road in Cumberland, Maryland, 1937. Today, nearly 80 years later, some areas of the country are deciding that they'd rather pamper the wealthy than maintain paved roads. So, they're converting some paved roads to gravel roads. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

In Texas, they're beginning to convert paved roads into gravel roads. In the article, "Plan to Convert Roads to Gravel Despite Pushback" (Texas Tribune, August 19, 2013), we learn that Texas doesn't have enough money to repave certain roads. We also learn that "Efforts to increase taxes on the companies that are profiting from the energy boom to cover the road repair costs failed to gain traction" in the Republican controlled-state. A rancher who will be affected by the pavement-to-gravel conversion said, "Texas used to have the best roads...I just can't believe the Department of Transportation is going back to the dark ages." (Also see "Texas must invest in infrastructure to support oil boom," San Antonio Business Journal, August 20, 2014).

Tax breaks for the wealthy + no taxes for business = The need to sneak money away from your highway funds

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his fellow trickle-down tricksters are proposing to divert $158 million from the state's highway fund to plug budget holes caused by their massive tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy and their complete tax elimination for businesses. The diversion is causing concern across the state as needed repairs will be delayed. In response to the questioning of his policies, Brownback said, "If you've got a better idea, great. Let's hear it. Criticism, fine, but come up with your ideas" ("Kansas Gov. Brownback's Budget Hits Cherished Highway System," Associated Press, Huffington Post, February 7, 2015).

Here's an idea for you Governor Brownback: Stop pampering the super-wealthy at the expense of your infrastructure.

Infrastructure madness vs. the New Deal

America's infrastructure madness shows no sign of abating. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan recently pooh-poohed President Obama's infrastructure improvement proposal (calling it "envy economics"), the Koch brothers are planning to spend 900 million dollars to manipulate our political process (and thus keep taxes low on millionaires & billionaires), and millions of people, far from being discouraged by all this, seem to be moving further and further to the political right, just as the Kochs have paid for. It seems that no amount of budget damage, infrastructure damage, or democracy damage, can dissuade millions from having faith in the voodoo of good ol' trickle-down economics.

During the New Deal, things were very different. For example, instead of facilitating theft from highway funds, New Deal policymakers invested heavily in America's roads, streets, and highways. The WPA alone created, repaired, or improved 650,000 miles of roadway across the nation, including...are you listening Mr. Brownback?...nearly 20,000 miles of roads in Kansas.      

In any event, make sure you have several big pots handy. There's a good chance that you'll be boiling lots of water these next several years.

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