Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Yesterday, a 74-year-old water main broke in Bethesda, Maryland, and caused a "traffic nightmare." A new WPA could have prevented that.

(In the video above, we see a water main break that occurred earlier this year in Bethesda, Maryland. Across the nation, there are about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks - every single year. YouTube link:

Yesterday, October 13, a 74-year-old water main broke in Bethesda, Maryland, causing a "traffic nightmare." The Bethesda area has experienced many water main breaks this year (see the video above for example). A new WPA could have prevented this latest problem by installing a new water line. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA installed 124 miles of new water lines in Maryland, and 16,000 miles of new water lines across the country.

We had a chance to create a new WPA back in 2011, when unemployment was even higher than it is today. The late senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) submitted legislation to create a new WPA but couldn't get support from his fellow Democrats in Congress or President Obama. Republicans, of course, were too busy blaming the unemployed and teachers, for Wall Street's fraud, to give a damn. So, the bill died a quiet death in committee, away from the eyes of the public, who, even if they had known about it, probably wouldn't have given a damn either.

There's a price to be paid for all this public apathy, and all this submissiveness to our super-rich fellow citizens: Hundreds of thousands of broken water mains causing disruptions in water service, contaminated water, power outages, fire hydrants that don't work, sinkholes, road damage, flooded homes & businesses, traffic jams, etc.

Many people will say, of course, "Oh, we can't afford to create another WPA!" Meanwhile, the super-wealthy keep gobbling up more and more of our nation's wealth, and keep laughing all the way to their tax-evading offshore bank accounts. Instead of infrastructure improvements that would benefit 300+ million Americans, the super-wealthy take their added billions and buy gold bathtubs, $78,000 watches, and private islands. And the rest of us are taxed more in a futile attempt by policymakers to make up the revenue difference. As the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy recently reported: "Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families." We are also forced to pay higher tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates--all of which are highly regressive--so the super-wealthy can have more time & money to make vanity purchases, take "selfies," and behave rudely towards others (see, e.g., "Wealthy Selfies: How Being Rich Increases Narcissism," Time, August 20, 2013).  

To add insult to injury, Republicans and Tea Partiers tell us: "Hey, you can't tax the rich more, they're the job creators!" Apparently, they think that the purchase of a private island creates lots of jobs. Yep, that's the mentality that shapes our public policy. And that's why our infrastructure is crumbling, why our wages are stagnant or dropping, and why we have a record number of homeless children.

In any event, make sure you stock up on emergency water... you're going to need it. A break is coming to a water main near you.


  1. Thanks Brent. I did a lot of work with Senator Lautenburg during my environmental career in NJ, from 1988-2001 and he was well disposed towards my organization, NJ Audubon. When he didn't agree with us, he was pretty candid, which was helpful.

    So it doesn't surprise me he sponsored this because I heard him speak with compassion about the tough times of the 1930's.

    And I also see Senator Bernie Sanders was a co-sponsor...strange on the House side, no mirror bill at all.

    1. Thanks Bill. It never ceases to amaze me that we let our infrastructure fall apart, crying out "we can't afford it!", as corporations and the super-wealthy evade and avoid taxes in a multitude of ways. It's just really an incredible thing to witness.

  2. I agree Brent. Looked at from almost any angle, it's not a good sign for our country, almost like a person, a citizen deliberately neglecting their health...where an ideology of anti-gov't and anti-tax, rather than face the deep and hidden unemployment situation, low interest rates and therefore costs of borrowing, and manifest evidence of physical decay...then doubles down, puts its head in the sand, and says, as on global's all a lie, its own way, the Republican Right's response, to me at least, eerily resembles the response of Louis XVI in the late 1780's in France, Nicholas II in the years 1905-1917 in Russia...reality simply cannot be faced, and even responsible moderate compromises in the rational direction are rejected...