Listening to the experts at Liberal Street Fighter

We’ve been playing this game for several decades now. Under an ideology that worships “market forces,” the institutions and “leaders” of this country have been cranking out Pop Goes the Weasel while their thugs sneak up behind the citizenry, pulling out chairs from under them when the music stops, and even smashing the chairs themselves with brutal blows dealt with sledge hammers masquerading as budget cuts.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure has some chilling details about other disasters in waiting, other failures looming in our future due to years of neglect:


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) today released its 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure – assigning a cumulative grade of D for the nation’s infrastructure. The condition of our nation’s roads, bridges, drinking water systems and other public works have shown little to no improvement since they were graded an overall D+ in 2001, with some areas sliding toward failing grades. […]

To remedy America’s current and looming problems, ASCE estimates an investment need of $1.6 trillion over a five-year period from all levels of government and the private sector. This amount does not include estimates for infrastructure security needs. The investment needed for protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure is still being defined within the Department of Homeland Security framework.

The Report has details on major challenges sorted by state, and compares the current situation to a simular report they produced in 2001. In the last four years, unsuprisingly, many of the critical systems we all rely on for our lives, our health and our economy have dangerously declined:


William P. Henry, P.E., F. ASCE

President, American Society of Civil Engineers

March 9, 2005

Coping with an infrastructure that’s been pushed past its limits is a daily nightmare for all of us.

Today’s news is alarming. Our infrastructure is sliding toward failure and the prospect for any real improvement is grim. If we treated our own homes like we treat our infrastructure, we’d all live in shacks.

In 2005, the overall grade for our infrastructure is a D, down from a D+. We estimate it will take a total investment of $1.6 trillion dollars over five years to bring the infrastructure up to acceptable levels.

Since the time our infrastructure was last graded in 2001, there has been little or no improvement in any of twelve infrastructure categories.  

We are all witnessing the results of this neglect now on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Neglected infrastructure, already stressed by normal conditions, just wasn’t robust enough to weather this natural and manmade disaster.

We’re told we can’t afford to fix these problems, or that the private sector will do it. This is plainly not the case, and our failure to realize this isn’t just costing lives, but it’s also sabotaging our economy, and thus our ability to correct the growing problems.

National Fact Sheet

Key Infrastructure Facts

  • Our nation’s highways, transit systems, railroads, airports, ports and inland waterways drive our economy, enabling all industries to achieve the growth and productivity that has made America so strong and prosperous.

  • A USDOT study concludes that for each $1 billion of federal spending on highway construction nationwide, 47,500 jobs are generated annually. If we invested in our infrastructure at the level of $1.6 trillion over five years, as many as five million jobs would be created.

It is the poor who are paying most dearly for this failed political ideology, but the damage will spread, and will affect us all.

It is time to return this country to rationality, to a shared sense of purpose. There are other measurements of worth than profit, and profit itself becomes increasingly impossible without rules and infrastructure. We need to turn our backs on the Know Nothing Republicans, who scorn expert advice and denigrate science as a guide for decisions, preferring instead to twist and ignore it to serve their greed and profiteering.

Check out the Society’s report, then ask your Senators and Representatives what THEY will do to address these looming failures. It is vital that we return to the idea that the government is US, and that it is there to gather and focus our energies to serve the public good, and not just narrow personal interests.

We often hear about how Americans don’t save enough, and this is just another symptom of that problem. Highways, safe dams, robust and clean water and sewage systems and other infrastructure are physical manifestations of the present saving for the future, a demonstration of faith that there will be a public sphere on into the future to provide for people to have their health, to have their hopes and to develop their opportunities.

We have neglected each other long enough. Time to get back to the grand efforts started by FDR to rebuild this country as a fit place for ALL of us.

Under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration alone, Americans built 125,000 public buildings, 75,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, 800 airports, and more than 650,000 miles of roads, creating a modern American infrastructure and earning a paycheck all the while. Perhaps the most influential of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs was the Social Security Act, which provided pensions to the elderly through a payroll tax. Altered over the years, Social Security has remained a significant source of support for elderly and disabled Americans.

The movement toward this new direction will have to come from the left, and it will have to be done over the willful blindness of the leaders of both parties and the corporate bosses who purchase their votes with campaign contributions. That is an enormous project, and will likely take many years.

Meanwhile, the chairs keep disappearing as we dance around them, closer and closer to a crumbling cliff.

illustration from Wojtek Kozak Illustrations

Parody stamps from Stay Free Magazine