tomorrow, and not promises and nice speeches, jobs now or we are heading back
into a recession before recovering from the Great Recession. Adding to the
emergency, our infrastructure is falling apart, our bridges, freeways, dams,
levees, sewage and water systems, everything. Creating jobs to repair our
broken infrastructure is an investment in our future.
If we do not repair our crumbling infrastructure, people are going to die. That is not a theoretical statement. It has already happened. In August 2005 Katrina came ashore and the levies around New Orleans were woefully incapable of handling the monster hurricane. Over 700 people died in New Orleans alone, and a major American city was severely damaged, homes, buildings, and businesses were destroyed. Many were injured, and many more simply left New Orleans, never to return. Just last spring there was enormous flooding along the Missouri, Mississippi, and other rivers because the levees were inadequate, not high enough and weakened by age. People died, and there was billions of dollars in property damage along with loss of jobs and farming acreage. Those bent on cutting government spending are reluctant to face reality and historical disasters, which provide valuable clues to our future as a nation. That doesn 't work when it comes to our infrastructure. We can pay now in terms of repairs, or we can pay later and the cost just went up exponentially. Some politicians today are trying to save a nickel by spending a dime. That's the way it works with our infrastructure.
If New Orleans and the Midwest are not sufficient clues to our future, allow me to provide another one. It is classic because this time it does not involve a violent Mother Nature. This time politicians failed miserably due to their lack of attentiveness and foresight. The eight-lane 35W bridge in Minneapolis was a vital link involving both state and interstate commerce. Several reports cited problems with the bridge structure. In 1990, the federal government gave the I-35W bridge a rating of "structurally deficient," citing significant corrosion in its bearings. Incidentally, approximately 75,000 other U.S. bridges had this classification in 2007. During the evening rush hour on August 1, 2007, it suddenly collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. What would it have cost to repair the bridge? I'm guessing a few million, but the politicians in Minnesota wanted to save that money. The vital bridge had to be replaced. The overall cost, including clean up, $400 million. Pay now or pay later.
Many of our water and sewage systems were built in the 1930's. Our 50 to 70-year old aqueducts are getting old. Our 50 to 70-year old bridges are equally aged. These systems are way past their life expectancy and they are failing, some catastrophically.
Our economy is based on our transportation system, telecommunications, electrical grid, along with our dams, which provide electrical power and irrigation, and our water and sewage systems. If our transportation system breaks down, if our electrical grids collapse because they were built 30 to 50 years ago and now has outdated computer software -- this has happened already, Aug. 2003, the Northeast, parts of the Midwest, and Canada -- then our economy is broken beyond repair, as is our great nation. We go back to the early part of the 20 th Century and go from there. Forget our military, there won't be revenue to pay for it. So, there goes our national security. Pay now or pay later. Those who write about America's demise a hundred years from now simply won't care.
This type of government spending is far different from any other. This is an investment in our future as a nation. In addition, as an added benefit, it puts people to work during some pretty hard times with very high unemployment. Recently a home improvement company decided to build a new outlet in my hometown. The construction of that gargantuan outlet had to cost millions of dollars with nothing coming in from the site. Why did the company do this? They did it for the promise of billions in profit over the next few decades. The company invested in its future at great cost. Is this any different from the federal government investing in our future as a nation?
A report, Back to Work: A Public Jobs Proposal for Economic Recovery, written by Rutgers law and economics professor Philip Harvey, recommends an approach that "doesn't require us to wait for the economy to recover in order to put people back to work." It puts people back to work as a way of nourishing the recovery. It's a strategy for producing a job-recovery rather than the jobless recovery we have been experiencing so far. "The recovery strategy... is conceptually simple: Create jobs for the unemployed directly and immediately in public employment programs that produce useful goods and services for the public's benefit. What this does for the unemployed is obvious. They get decent work while they wait for the recession to run its course... Benefits delivered... trickle up to the private sector, inducing private sector job creation that supplements the immediate employment effect of the job creation program itself."
An astute reader, aware of the debt reduction issues before us today, which are important issues, might inquire as to how we pay for this infrastructure repair. In view of what I have already stated a part of me says I should not have to answer. Thinking that some readers might think I am just another free-spending liberal, despite the urgency of the problem, another part of me says I better answer the question. So, I will.
During our brief history as a nation, there have been good wars (as if any war is good) and there have been bad wars. Since the end of the Korean War in the early 1950's, every one of our wars since then have been unmitigated disasters with the singular exception of the Gulf War in the early 1990's. Topping the list is the Vietnam War and our current endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, I have recent information that our two endless wars just got more endless, but that is unconfirmed. Incidentally, the U.S. has been at war more often than any other international power since WWII " combined.
No one can tell me why we are at war with Afghanistan and Iraq today. Here is a clue. With all the hype and elaborate patriotic displays on the agenda for the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11, 9/11 is not the reason the fighting goes on today. The original reasons as to why we started both wars disappeared a long time ago. Why are we fighting? Our President, defense secretary, secretary of state, and our military leaders are not forthcoming. We get over-generalizations, vague and cryptic reasons such as our national security, nation building, democracy and freedom for all, along with reminders as to why the wars were started in the first place. Then, of course, there is the all-encompassing T-word, terrorists, as if terrorists were some nation's army we have to vanquish, which is beyond incredulity. Terrorists are criminals and should be treated as such.
What do we do about it? Continue these wars, enriching our corporations at the expense of our blood and treasure, or end this travesty and start rebuilding our nation? We Americans have a choice. We merely have to voice our displeasure, and fire those who do not want to rebuild our nation.
The Bush era is over. However, William Rivers Pitt states , "" that algorithm remains ruthlessly in place. War-oriented companies like DynCorp, Washington Group International, Aegis Defense Services, URS Corporation, BAE Systems, Renco, CACI, Bechtel, General Dynamics, General Electric, and Titan, along with oil giants like Exxon/Mobil and Chevron, have profited to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars off these conflicts, and are poised to continue doing so well into the future. Nineteen combined total years of war [Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iraq, Libya], amounting to approximately seven thousand consecutive days of profiteering off the blood, bone and flesh of soldiers and civilians. War profiteering is nothing new. The Roman who invented the gladius  forged the weapon that carved out a lasting empire, and probably died a very wealthy man. Here in 21st century America, however, the empire is crumbling not for lack of our war-making abilities, but because war-making appears to be the only healthy industry left in our economy. We are collapsing not despite war, but because of it. We are eating ourselves, and if the powerful ones behind Mr. Obama and Mr. Panetta get their way, we will be continuing to do so for years to come."
Here is how we fund the repair of our infrastructure. The solution is really quite simple. These wars are costing our treasury $10B/month. Pull our troops out and invest $5B/month on our infrastructure for five years, or however long it takes, and apply the rest to our deficit spending. Guess what, people are put back to work, paying taxes instead of collecting unemployment checks and government revenues go up. The stock market gains confidence and American investments prosper. Banks gain confidence and they start loaning money again. The housing crisis vanishes and our economy is rejuvenated. This is what we call a win/win situation.
We should take a serious look at what is in the pipeline in terms of defense spending. We are a lone superpower. No nation on Earth can challenge us. Do we really need all that fancy new hardware, including ships, planes, and technology that is designed to take us into the 22nd Century? We have no enemy, yet we spend more on defense than the next 17 nations ... combined. Is all that really necessary for our national defense, or is it necessary for the profits of the corporations mentioned in Pitt's statement? These savings can be applied to the deficit, too. The $5B/month is enough. Also, get our military assets out of Libya. The Brits, French, and Italians are more than capable of handling Libya, and they have a stake there. We don't.
Steve Benen writes, "When Republicans say 'no jobs, no way,' at least the nation will be able to see where both parties stand, and then choose accordingly next year."