Monday, December 21, 2015

An old water main broke in Hollywood Hills, and caused a mudslide. A new WPA could have prevented that.


(In the video above, we see the results of a broken water main in Hollywood Hills this past Saturday. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv0zVeRcej8.)

Two days ago, a water main broke and caused an eight-foot mudslide in Hollywood Hills, California. The break and mudslide cut off water service, closed a road, and heavily damaged (perhaps even ruining) two homes. The cause? "Officials blamed the break on an aging cast iron pipe, one that was installed in 1952" ("2 Homes Heavily Damaged In 8-Foot Hollywood Hills Mudslide," CBS News, December 19, 2015). 

One resident of Hollywood Hills called the break, mudslide, and damage "crazy." But actually, it's pretty commonplace in modern America. Each year, we have about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks.

A new WPA could prevent a lot of these breaks. For example, in California, WPA workers installed 1,200 miles of new water lines between 1935 and 1943. (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-1943)

Of course, we're not going to get a new WPA. Why not? Because most super-wealthy Americans don't want one, preferring that jobless Americans remain jobless if they can't find work in the holy "private sector" (see page 57, table 5, here).  You see, many super-wealthy Americans like having a large pool of jobless & desperate workers to use & abuse. To them, it's a nifty way to keep wages down and investment returns high. And they also don't care about infrastructure too much. "Water main break? No big deal, I can just truck some water in! Power outage? No problem, I have a $14,000 Generac to keep me warm! Potholes? No biggie, I'll just fly over them in my private jet! Bridges? Well, um, I don't have any bridges on my private island!"

(Here's some money we could have used to improve our infrastructure. Instead, we just sort of let the "job creators" stash their money wherever they felt like it, didn't we? Because, you know, they're the "job creators," and they're really good at creating good middle-class jobs! Yippee!! Oh, wait a minute, see "The Middle Class Has Gotten Smaller In Every State Since 2000," Huffington Post, March 19 2015, and "For most workers, real wages have barely budged for decades," Pew Research, October 9, 2014. Image courtesy of Demos.org.
     
Because of the aging water pipes in Hollywood Hills, as well as the rest of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is proposing utility rate hikes. Yep, that's how we do things today. Instead of asking millionaires & billionaires to pay more at the federal level (and then providing more federal aid to states for infrastructure), and instead of cracking down on tax evasion & avoidance by Corporate America and the super-wealthy, we impose regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates at the state & local level, thereby ensuring that the less you make the more you pay. As the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy has highlighted, "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." In other words: American-style capitalism in all its splendor.

Amazingly though, even as Americans are disproportionately taxed, and even as they suffer from a plague of water main breaks (and many other infrastructure woes), and even as their highway funds are stolen to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy, many of them are still ready, willing, and eager to vote for Republican politicians who will completely ignore infrastructure and hand out even more tax breaks to the wealthy. Isn't that amazing? See the video below for my reacton.


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