Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

What’s wrong with this picture?

with 4 comments


Your tax dollars at work, illustrated. America’s roads, bridges, and levees are falling apart because of lack of maintenance, but by God the Pentagon has more money than the rest of the world’s militaries combined. We’re the richest country the world has ever seen, and we can’t even be bothered to maintain our own roads and bridges? This picture is a stunning example of how misplaced our nation’s priorities have been for decades. Trillions of dollars have been sent on “defense,” yet over a quarter of the nation’s bridges are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” This is madness.

This is an appalling and widespread problem. The American Society of Civil Engineers has been tracking this since 2001, and the news is not good. The Nation’s 2005 Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation’s infrastructure a “D” grade overall. Here are some of the details:

  • Aviation. We’ve gone from a D in 2001 to D+, but unless there are improvements the situation is going to get much worse. And we only had an improvement because there was a massive drop off in air travel after 911 coupled with modest spending increases.
  • Bridges. C. That’s right, the people who died above died on one the countries better maintained infrastructure categories. That must be a comfort to the families. It will take ten billion dollars a year for decades to fix this, we spend that much in Iraq every month.
  • Dams. D. There are over 3500 dams in need of critical repairs in the USA, while most are in private hands, nonetheless these dams represent an immediate threat to public safety.
  • D to D- since 2001. We are running an 11 billion dollar annual shortfall in Federal funding for the nation’s drinking water.
  • Energy (National Power Grid.) D. Maintenance on the national power grid has been decreasing annually since 1992, blackouts and brownouts will occur with increasing frequency unless this is addressed.
  • Hazardous Waste. D to D+. A slight improvement, but there are thousands of sites across the nation that urgently require clean up. And these sites if developed could provide much needed jobs and housing, instead they just sit there oozing poisons.
  • Navigable waterways. D+ in 2001 to D- today. A wonderful system of canals that can move goods vastly cheaper, with less pollution, and reducing congestion on the freeways…is rapidly becoming obsolete. Nearly 50% of the locks in the system are functionally obsolete, this will rise to 80% by 2020.
  • Public Parks and Recreation. C- Anyone remember the sixties when the facilities in public parks was clean and shiny and new? Most of these facilities haven’t had more than paint since then, and billions is needed to fix this.
  • Rail. C-. For the first time since world war two limited rail capacity is causing choke points and delays. This situation can be summarized in two words: Nucking Futs. More than ten billion a year is needed to fix this.
  • Roads. D+ in 2001 to D today. Poor road conditions cost each American hundreds of dollars a year, congestion and delays costs the economy some 65 billion a year in lost productivity. 30 billion a year could fix this, Gee, by giving that 30 billion dollars annually to the Pentagon it is costing America 65 billion a year? Give me a break.
  • Schools. D- to D. The Feds have avoided assessing the state of the nation’s schools since 1999, when over 100 billion dollars was needed to bring them up to par. There has been some slight improvement since then because of public outcry and bond issues, but bonds just pass the cost plus interest on to our children. Yeah, that makes sense.
  • Security. While the situation has improved since 2001, it has been so haphazard and undocumented that engineers still do not have the information they need to make the nation safer when designing public facilities. No comment is even needed here.
  • Transit. C- in 2001 to D+ today. Transit use is the fastest increasing type of travel, but federal funding has not kept pace. Transit agencies have been borrowing money and increasing fares to stay running, a situation that cannot continue indefinitely.
  • Wastewater. D in 2001 to D- today. Hundreds of billions of dollars is needed to keep this system up to date, as it is billions of gallons of raw sewage is dumped into our nation’s waterways annually. You know, the beaches, lakes, and rivers you and your children play in.

Something like 1.6 trillion dollars over the next five years to fix this. Instead, we’re going to spend more money than that in the invasion and continued occupation of a nation that posed no threat to the USA and doesn’t want us there. Jesus wept.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way deprives or interferes with the copyright owners business interests. Credit: Getty Images)

Written by unitedcats

August 4, 2007 at 9:47 am

Posted in Business, Politics, War

4 Responses

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  1. You present an excellent pile of information. I am one of those in the camp that agrees conditionally. Those would be:Not all ills are to be solved by the Feds. The taxes we all pay that are dedicated to many of the points you list are undeniably misspent.The state and local level feifdoms need to either get it together or give up their duchy mentality and work together.To many roads to take and I won’t violate the policy so bye for now.


    August 4, 2007 at 12:42 pm

  2. In the more statesman like past of America, large civil projects were ‘life-cycle’ costed.

    This process recognizes that once a major civil improvement is made (i.e. a bridge), it WILL need to be maintained and WILL need to be replaced.

    Building a bridge is buying into a FOREVER proposition.

    Sadly politicians cannot be trusted with the TRUSTS required to responsibly fund these obligations. Money is raided, diverted, and even stolen.

    And the public is none the wiser. Jesus does weep!


    August 6, 2007 at 6:31 am

  3. in2thefray: Agreed, the Feds are not directly responsible for all of these problems by any means. Still, the fact that as a whole the national infrastructure is a mess certainly indicates to me that the Feds haven’t been doing their job.
    ET: Couldn’t agree more, it has enraged me for years that Americans simply do not consider maintenance costs when they buy or build things, from the largest infrastructure projects to our homes and cars. The Romans and Greeks carefully built their homes, public buildings and infrastructure to last for centuries, we build stuff so shoddily that most of what was built in the twentieth century will last at most a few decades. How we got to this point is a mystery to me (though I have some ideas,) but it bodes ill for the long term health of our civilization.


    August 6, 2007 at 7:39 am

  4. […] Angkor Wat. This is another great civilization that abandoned its cities mysteriously. No one really knows why, though there’s some current investigation that hints that the metropolitan area got too large for its infrastructure to sustain. Of course contemporary modern civilizations know well the immense importance of infrastructure and always maintain it well. Snort. […]

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