Friday, August 03, 2007

Maybe I'm wrong

Contrary to reports from numerous sources, I really don't mind being wrong. Well, okay, I hate being wrong, but after sleeping on it, maybe I was wrong to judge the media coverage of the disaster in Minneapolis.

Sure, the media is focused on body counts and human interest stories, but I have a glimmer of hope that the media's intense stare can effect change (or is that "affect change"? I'm having a bad grammar day!). Infrastructure maintenance is, from a political standpoint, very unsexy, but is also very necessary to support our way of life.

Mary sent me a link to a Reuters article which actually did give me some hope. Hopes were dashed when I later read:
When Congress next rewrites the highway funding bill in 2009, "we're not going to settle for a bargain-basement transportation" policy, Oberstar said.
2009?? Are you serious? Not only that, but lawmakers only asked for $3 billion (and received slightly less, as is typical in budget negotiations) in the last highway bill. According to the article:
A 2005 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country's infrastructure an unacceptable D grade - almost failing. The group estimated the United States needed to spend US$1.6 trillion over five years to put its infrastructure into good shape.
$1.6 TRILLION over 5 years. That's like $320 billion per year. That's like having 8 more Iraqs. We can't even afford ONE IRAQ!
Bridges actually received comparatively high marks in the civil engineering report: an acceptable C grade, compared with D notes for the country's aviation system, dams, drinking water, electric power grid and hazardous waste system.
These are the things that we need to be worried about, I'm sorry to say. It's hard to win political points by funding these sorts of projects (aside from the fact that they're needed across the US, and create jobs), but it's needed. I mean, what happens when a dam blows or an urban area can't get drinkable water, due to "natural" causes (lack of upkeep) or God-forbid a terrorist attack? We are in big trouble, that's what - the cleanup costs far outweigh the preventative costs - compare it with seeing a doctor for a yearly checkup vs. waiting until you're in so much pain you need to go to the ER. In the short-term, the damage will be horrific, and in the long term, we're going to rapidly lose the economic prestige we so precariously cling to.

I don't want to drag the Bush Administration into this, but opportunity is usually presented in the form of a challenge. It's time to bite the bullet and create something along the lines of the WPA (it can even be private!) to combat this problem. Sure, you've gotta suck it up and accept government's role in funding this, but can it wait? I don't think so.

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