Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A water main break in Hoboken threatens Thanksgiving. A WPA could have prevented that.

(WPA laborers working on the Loudonville Reservoir, in Albany, New York, ca. 1935. The reservoir still provides water today. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

A weekend water main break & valve failure in New Jersey cut off water pressure to residents of Hoboken, Jersey City, and surrounding areas. The problem occurred on a water system that dates back to the 1920s and threatens to ruin the Thanksgiving plans of many people. The break also caused flooding, road closures, and a boil-water advisory. (See, e.g., "No Thanksgiving in Hoboken? Broken water main may not be fixed for days," NJ.com, November 23, 2015)

When an article about New Jersey's crumbling infrastructure was written over a year ago, there were some interesting comments to the story that, I believe, shed a light on why our infrastructure continues to deteriorate:

"Cut spending in other areas. No new taxes. We waste too much money now."

"NJ already squanders too many tax $$ on lost liberal causes."

"Time for the Takers to bite the bullet. Cut welfare and food stamps along with the Abbott district funding to fix our infrastructure so the makers can safely get to work to continue taking care of the takers."

"To the Democrats, raising taxes is the only solution that they ever come up with to not only fix the infrastructure but, to also bolster the ever increasing demand of Government subsidies to feed their dependent voting base or their loyal special interest group (aka unions)."

"Entitlements are eating up the money needed for infrastructure."

Despite the fact that corporations and the super-wealthy are evading & avoiding hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes (see, for example, the graph below), and despite the fact that our defense spending almost equals the rest of the world combined, and despite the fact that our big financial institutions have engaged in an epic amount of fraud & crime, many people insist on blaming the poor for our nation's problems. To them, it's the worker making minimum wage and receiving government food assistance that's causing infrastructure to fall apart - not the billions of dollars hidden away in offshore bank accounts or the trillions of dollars entangled in an array of complex & shady corporate "deals" devised by an army of lawyers, accountants, and CEOs (and permitted by the politicians they give campaign cash to).

(Here, we see all the money that could have been put to good use on domestic needs, e.g., infrastructure, during the first decade of the 21st century. And if you do a little research, you'll see that the tax evasion problem still exists today, five years later. Image courtesy of Demos.) 
 
New Deal policymakers had a different approach to infrastructure needs - they hired the unemployed to get the job done. In New Jersey, for example, WPA workers built or repaired 150 utility plants, installed 262 miles of new water lines, and put in 827 miles of storm & sanitary sewer lines. The WPA was so successful, that even Ronald Reagan praised it in his autobiography. And we're still using thousands of their projects today.

So, which approach do you prefer? Turning a blind eye to Wall Street fraud, corporate crime, tax evasion, and blaming public school teachers and the unemployed instead? Or, hiring those who want to work to repair our dilapidated infrastructure? 

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