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.