Thursday, June 25, 2015

Infrastructure madness in America...and the better, New Deal way

(A WPA work crew constructing a sidewalk in Wicomico County, Maryland, in November of 1937. Across the nation, WPA workers created or repaired thousands of sidewalks. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

About a week and a half ago, a water main that was installed shortly after the Civil War (yes, the American Civil War) burst in Philadelphia, sending about 8-10 million gallons of water rushing through a neighborhood. A resident who couldn't get to work because of the resulting flood said that the federal government has "their priorities all out of whack. You know how many jobs there could be fixing the American infrastructure? Instead, I'm sitting here with no way to get to work" ("A deluge of frustration,", June 16, 2015).

Indeed, all across the country, conservative politicians have their priorities out of whack. Consider the strangeness, the madness of it all...

Isn't it strange that "Michigan Republicans want to raise taxes on the poor to pay for road repairs"... while the Forbes 400 keeps adding billions of dollars to their already-bloated fortunes? 

Isn't it madness that, after Republicans in Kansas gave huge tax cuts to their richest citizens... they had to steal money from their highway fund to make ends meet?

Isn't it strange that funding is uncertain for 38 damaged dams in Oklahoma... while Walmart is allegedly using foreign tax havens to avoid paying billions to the IRS?

Isn't it madness that Republicans can't find a "funding mechanism" for our nation's infrastructure... while they're simultaneously working to eliminate the estate tax for millionaires & billionaires?

Isn't it strange that Republicans keep saying, "We can’t spend all this money" on America's infrastructure... yet they're eager to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the war in Iraq - a war based on lies and misinformation?  And eager to start wars in many other mid-east countries too?

Isn't it madness that we have a quarter of a million water main breaks across the United States, every single year... but the Republican Party is more focused on making it easier for super-wealthy Americans to engage in illegal tax evasion?

(A man stands proudly over a WPA culvert project in Frederick County, Maryland, in May of 1936. Across the nation, WPA workers installed or improved over 1.1 million culverts. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

What we're witnessing today, is our country descending so far into plutocracy that domestic issues--issues that affect the common good--are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The super-rich are calling the shots with their millions of dollars in campaign contributions, and many (not all) of the super-rich are unconcerned about infrastructure issues. Super-wealthy Americans can avoid most infrastructure problems with a private jet, a private landing field, trucks delivering sparkling fresh drinking water, or a $14,000 Generac. And heck, even if their $100,000 SUV gets swallowed by a sinkhole, created by an old & broken water main, they can just buy another $100,000 SUV. After all, it's only money.

New Deal policymakers had a better philosophy on domestic matters than today's Republicans and Plutocrats. Indeed, New Deal policymakers invested in infrastructure in ways that most Americans can't even comprehend today. Why did they make these investments? Because they cared more about the strength of the nation than the luxury & comfort of a few hundred super-wealthy families. They thought that bridges for thousands of motorists were more important than 24-karat gold bathtubs for the children of the super-wealthy to soak & gloat in. They thought that a modern & safe water supply system for millions of people was more important than a $20,000 evening gown or a $20,000 bottle of wine.

(A WPA road project in Baltimore County, Maryland, in September of 1936. Across the nation, WPA workers created, repaired, or improved 650,000 miles of roads - enough roadwork to go around the planet 26 times. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

If we want to strengthen America's infrastructure, we need to reinvigorate the policies & principles of the New Deal, and we need to fight back against the "selfish stupidity of a few citizens."

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