That is the number that Rachel Maddow cited the other night during her segment concerning bridge disrepair in America today. I went to Google to verify that number, and most of the citations were much higher than that. The map shown on that segment of Maddow showed I-80 across Iowa as nearly a solid line of deficient bridges. It may be cheaper to put up billboards with a prayer on them before each bridge, but repairing them before something happens seems more practical. Doing the repairs now will be cheaper in the long run and it would be a great time to put some of the unemployed back to work doing desperately needed work.
Bridges are not the only item in need of fixing or building in this country. Certainly most have heard or seen a list of all various repairs needed. Since repairs have been underfunded and pushed down the road for 30 years, the cost of these repairs has grown to an estimated $2 Trillion or more. This is just to get the house in order, not to do any of the much needed improvements that will help us get back to the top.
The repairs are needed on things that are communally owned – that is, owned by the people in common usually through some level of government, whether it be local, state or federal. These repairs are now to the point where in many cases they can no longer be kicked down the road. They must be done now. Not just bridges, but sewer pipes and plants, water systems, transportation systems and highways to name just a few.
Since these are communally owned, we, acting through our representative government, need to act to get these things fixed. And our representatives also need to come up with a way to pay for these repairs. Since the beginning of the underfunding goes nearly hand in hand with the cuts in taxes for the rich, it would seem to me that there may be some back payments due from that segment of our society.
By the way, think of the government acting in our behalf as a customer – the customer which creates a job through the purchase of a product and service. This is old fashioned classic economics – demand creates need for supply which creates need for workers to meet that demand. In the bizarro world of supply side economics, the equation would be that I will make the product I want you to buy.
Does a company just churn out millions of tubes of tooth paste without regard to demand? Of course not, demand drives the need to produce a supply, not the other way around.
Does the government create jobs? Yes, when they act as a customer representing the populace. They also create jobs when they hire people to do jobs which make sense to be kept in the public domain, such as inspectors and regulators of business or as those who act on behalf of the public such as teachers or as doctors and nurses in public hospitals. There are a myriad more examples which can be cited.
Let’s take a little look ahead at some of the work that should be done in the interest of keeping the US at the top of the heap. The first thing that jumps to mind is to repair or replace our outdated electric grid. The next thing that comes to mind is updating our internet infrastructure. The United States ranks very low on download speed and very high on cost. While some may say ‘so what?,’ this adds greatly to the cost of business and acts as an anchor compared to competitors around the world.
And one major project that must be started soon – tomorrow if possible – we need to get this country off its dependency on fossil fuels and take advantage of the sun, wind, wave and geothermal. The longer we wait the more it will cost us in national treasure, lives lost to war and pollution, our country’s independence and the costs of global Warming. It is well past time to start that “Apollo Project” towards energy independence.
We could have a booming economy in short order. There is literally tons of work to be done, most of which will require a highly skilled workforce. We need teachers and good schools to turn out the needed skilled workers. We also need laws which will reward those who create jobs in this country and punish those who move jobs to foreign countries. (click here for some estimates of how many jobs have been sent overseas)
Until we get to work on those bridges repeat after me: “Dear God, Please keep this bridge up for one more minute. Amen”