The Blog

America's Challenges: A Crumbling Infrastructure

How many more natural disasters will occur in America? And can they be prevented? Action must be taken now to identify, fund and correct our infrastructure deficiencies before they cause the senseless loss of more lives.
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States, municipalities, the federal government, and corporations have sadly neglected our infrastructure!

The United States is hurting. States and municipalities are struggling and our infrastructure is badly in need of repair. We face enormous challenges but have so little available to fix them.

The decaying infrastructure is one of the eight critical challenges this country faces. Repair of our infrastructure is long overdue -- as described in the first paragraph of "Our Electorate: America's Greatest Challenge!"

We are just beginning to pay the price for years of misappropriation of tax dollars, under-taxation, tax loopholes, soft regulation, poor fiscal responsibility, lack of vision, and general neglect.

Disasters like the explosion this past week in San Bruno, California; the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis; the BP oil spill in the Gulf; the failure of the levies during Katrina, and the Massey mine disaster in West Virginia that caused 29 senseless deaths were not merely accidents. They were accidents waiting to happen!

What caused these incredible disasters?

Though governments at all levels -- city, county, state, and federal -- are responsible for a good portion of the infrastructure failures, the blame must be equally shared by private enterprise.

Destruction of an entire neighborhood in San Bruno, California was PG&E's responsibility. The massive oil spill in the Gulf was a result of British Petroleum's cutting corners to improve their bottom line. And Massey's negligence was the cause of the explosion that cost miners their lives unnecessarily; all to increase their bottom line.

At the heart of both the Gulf Oil Spill and The Upper Big Branch mining disaster in West Virginia was the systematic gutting of the regulatory agencies coupled with cronyism.

The Mining Safety and Health Administration had cited Massey hundreds of times for violations, including methane buildup and monitoring violations. But Massey's huge corporate machine and gaggle of attorneys were able to fend off the sanctions and convince the courts to levy insignificant fines even in the event that those very violations could lead to a tragic mine disaster -- so add the courts to those complicit in these senseless deaths.

And the Minerals Management Service was not only incapable, but in bed with British Petroleum and other oil companies. Never before had an agency amassed such a large group of derelicts, so much so that the government officials should be standing trial for the deaths of the 11 rig workers, along with those from BP and Trans Ocean.

The jury is still out in the investigation to determine whether PG&E will join the burgeoning list of corporate corner cutters. And there will be questions about whether this tragedy could have been prevented or if signs were ignored.

Tragically, the public sector is also responsible for infrastructure failures that caused tremendous physical damage and irreparable loss of lives.

Private industry uses a formula called a cost-benefit ratio -- a dispassionate regard for profit over lives -- that government cannot afford nor consider.

The greatest public tragedy was by far Katrina and the failure of the levies. Millions helplessly watched in horror, as the Mississippi River poured into the Big Easy, causing unprecedented devastation. Then we watched the inept response of a gutted and impotent government agency: FEMA. Neighborhoods and lives were destroyed.

For years, there had been warnings about the levies inability to withstand extreme conditions like Katrina. They were either ignored or were of low priority to an uncaring government.

And the case was similar in Minneapolis. The possibilities of infrastructure failure were cited and discussed, but nothing was done to repair the deteriorating structure prior to the collapse. A decision that cost countless lives.

Again, here we find an avoidable tragedy that ends up being more costly in the aftermath in dollars and lives than it would have cost to fix.

The big question, now is how many more disasters will occur? And can they be prevented?

Unfortunately, many factors may coalesce, creating the potential for unforeseen cataclysmic events, and our negligence has only increased the probability.

We may be unable to prevent future disasters because this country is so severely in debt. Corporations continue to cut corners, regulatory agencies have been stripped to the point of impotency, and Congress shows little interest in providing funds for fixing our infrastructure, leaving that infrastructure vulnerable to mega catastrophes.

The stimulus, though unpopular, has been directed toward infrastructure and has been of some help. But it isn't nearly enough to fix all of the weakened infrastructure that has been neglected for nearly three decades.

It is hard to divert more of the funds to infrastructure when so much is required to improve a failing economy and an ailing jobs market. And it is even harder when considering that more than two trillion dollars has been spent on the two wars and Medicare Part D, which was passed without being paid for.

Republicans do not want to use money to fix the country's decaying infrastructure or to bolster the agencies that regulate those that are the cause of these disasters. They do not want to continue unemployment benefits. They do not want to give small businesses tax relief and the opportunity to survive.

They do, however, want to give the wealthy -- the upper 2% -- continued tax breaks while our nation crumbles.

Action must be taken now to identify, fund and correct our infrastructure deficiencies before they cause the senseless loss of more lives and treasure.

Anything less would be treasonous.


This is the first of the eight challenges America faces listed in the original article Our Electorate: America's Greatest Challenge. The next will address America's redistribution of money to the wealthy.