Bridges plunging into rivers. Sinkholes swallowing people, buildings and cars. Flight traffic control systems years out of date, leaving irate customers sitting on the tarmac and sleeping in terminals. Drinking water leaching out of ancient pipes.
A strong and durable infrastructure is the foundation of national prosperity. But the conservative obsession with tax cuts have left America's infrastructure to rot. When the federal government can no longer afford to help states and municipalities, these governments face a choice—raise taxes themselves, or defer the repairs for our children and grandchildren to worry about.
Miscast Morality > Infrastructure
Everyone remembers Elian Gonzales. But who recalls Elian Majano? Last summer, in a suburb near Dallas, two year-old Elian Majano disappeared. A bloodhound traced his scent to a sinkhole in a public park caused by a broken sewage pipeline.
The American Society of Civil Engineers tells us the situation hasn't been healthy for some decades; their first "Report Card for America's Infrastructure" gave wastewater pipes a "C." That was 1988. Now that George Bush's tax cuts have been added to Reagan's, their latest grade is "D-minus." You would think a great nation would be able to afford to keep children from drowning in crap. It would cost, the civil engineers tell us, about $390 billion to repair the damage.
And as we spend all this money in Iraq, who is watching congressional funding for wastewater management? Cut, in 2005, for the first time in eight years.
Disdain for Government > Infrastructure
In August 2007 a bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed in Minneapolis. Five years earlier, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty signed a "no new taxes" law before the cheering conservatives of the Taxpayer League of Minnesota. Three years later, he honored his pledge by vetoing a bipartisan transportation bill—sporting a giant VETO stamp as a prop—because it raised taxes. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported, "Plans to reinforce the bridge were well underway when the project came to a screeching halt in January amid concerns about safety and cost."
Look at the numbers. Five hundred and thirteen of 1,110 bridges in the state of Hawaii are rated structurally deficient. Twenty-two percent of the bridges in Monmouth County, New Jersey are structurally deficient. And 33 percent of bridges in Oklahoma are structurally deficient. Conservative tax-cutting mania has consequences, not only the danger to life and limb, but to America's very competitiveness in a globalized economy. What's sinking America? A conservative ideology that punts away the basic foundations of economic prosperity to our children and grandchildren to worry about.
Free Market Fundamentalism > Infrastructure
What was the reaction of Minneapolis conservatives to the collapse of the I-35 bridge? That it was a marvelous opportunity to bring in an expert—sponsored by a concrete manufacturer—on how the rebuilding process can be exploited as a "possible testing ground for a more effective market-grounded approach."
A testing ground? Having they already experimented with our infrastructure enough with their tax-cutting mania?
How Conservatism Caused This Failure...
Again and again, conservative governors veto infrastructure bills because they would require taxes to pay for them, and they've signed the "no new taxes" pledge demanded by Americans for Tax Reform—the folks who say they want to shrink government down to the size where they can drown it in a bathtub. Well, people are drowning all right, but not in bathtubs. read more »
When a bridge collapses or a tornado rips through a community and rips up needed infrastructure, the National Guard is an important resource to help. But how can the National Guard help if they're pinned down in a futile war in the Middle East? read more »
When Grover Norquist pushes his no-tax pledge on elected officials, he doesn't ask them to consider the consequences for the nation or their constituents—so long as the abstract ideological principle that taxes are always bad is kept intact. read more »
It's easier for infrastructure to crumble all around us when you loosen the rules that demand it be kept in top shape. read more »
When HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson admitted that he hands out contracts based on loyalty to President Bush, he virtually guaranteed that shoddy work would be guaranteed for political reasons. That can't be good for infrastructure. read more »