Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Smoking Guns: The New Infrastructure Report Card

Fork in the Road Info Graphic from the ASCE's Infrastructure Report Card
(Click for high-res version)
"You know a D turns into a B so easily."--Homer Simpson
Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases an infrastructure report card. If America had a Mom and Dad, they wouldn't be too happy right now.The grades are out, and the bottom line is a D+. The estimated investment needed by 2020 is $3.6 trillion.

Considering that the Iraq war cost will, after interest on the debt and Veteran's health care, come to $6.2 trillion, I'd say our grandchildren were doubly robbed. If some wingnut had the balls to say, well, we blew our infrastructure money on Iraq, so we'll just have to suffer, I would calmly suggest that what he knows about economics, if converted to gasoline, wouldn't fill a piss ant's go-cart enough to go around a cheerio once.

I'm not Dean Baker, but as he likes to point out, I have an advantage over many so called economists in the pundit class--I can do basic arithmetic. 2020 is 7 years away. $3.6 trillion, divided by 7 equals $514,285,714,285. A half a trillion dollars a year for 7 years to get our infrastructure up to par would, of course, be a major investment. It would require borrowing a lot more (at negative real interest rates). It would require hiring a lot of unemployed people. It would require buying a lot of materials that are currently cheap. We would have to, essentially, be willing to buy low. The payoffs for this investment are enormous (see the info-graphic, right).

This is from the executive summary of the report card:
We know that investing in infrastructure is essential to support healthy, vibrant communities. Infrastructure is also critical for long-term economic growth, increasing GDP, employment, household income, and exports. The reverse is also true – without prioritizing our nation’s infrastructure needs, deteriorating conditions can become a drag on the economy.
One would think that the very real threat we face from our crumbling infrastructure would be enough to make Americans want to spend to save all the people that will die on our crumbling roads, our collapsing bridges, or from our exploding gas mains... If only we could make infrastructure spending as sexy as shock and awe...

The report card from 2009 stated that 1/3 of all traffic fatalities, or about 10,000 deaths per year, are caused by poor road conditions. I wonder how much money we'd spend on war if terrorists were killing that many Americans every year?

The report card is full of all kinds of interesting facts that won't make it to the news, where mythical mushroom cloud smoking guns get more air time. The report card is full of many warnings of what will happen if we don't invest, none of which will get the kind of main stream air time as Dick Cheney telling us we'd be greeted as liberators, or Donald Rumsfeld telling us the WMD are "...in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat." In short, this report card, like the last one, will get ignored, for the most part, by the press that helped sell us a $6 trillion war.

Since so many in the American Press were so anxious to get us into that war, we aren't hearing a whole lot about the group-think of calling anyone who doubted Bush and Cheney a traitor. We won't hear much from a press (that bought the lies) about those lies. But here we have a chance for all the reporters and pundits, from Bill "Iraq has been won decisively and honorably" Kristol to Tom "FU" Friedman, to step up and recommend we spend big on something that will cost a little more than half of what Iraq cost, and this time the spending really will more than pay for itself.

So what are you waiting for? All you Iraq War cheerleaders should be out there now, with this report card (they even have an app) in your hand, telling the intransigent House GOP to get off their bloody hands and fix this country now. After all, we wouldn't want the smoking gun to be another city block going up in a gas main explosion.

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