Rearranging the deck chairs
Listening to the "news" and reading the usual sources on the internet has become surreal as the summer winds down. The key word lately is infrastructure. The President and the Democrats launched some initiatives that have no chance of being approved by Congress because they have to run for re-election on something, especially with underemployment the highest it's been since World War II.
With Democrats facing an increasingly bleak midterm election season, Mr. Obama used a speech at a union gathering on Labor Day,
the traditional start of the campaign season, to outline his plan. It calls for a quick infusion of $50 billion in government spending that White House officials said could spur job growth as early as next year — if Congress approves.
That is a big if. Though transportation bills usually win bipartisan support, hasty passage of Mr. Obama’s plan seems unlikely, given that Congress has only a few weeks of work left before lawmakers return to their districts to campaign and that Republicans are showing little interest in giving Democrats any pre-election victories.
Central to the plan is the president’s call for an “infrastructure bank,” which would be run by the government but would pool tax dollars with private investment...
The details of the plan will come as no surprise to DOTE readers—
Specifically, the president wants to rebuild 150,000 miles of road, lay and maintain 4,000 miles of rail track, restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system.
Oh, my! If you require additional proof of the utter bankruptcy of political thinking in the United States, you need not look any further than this. My recent post Ass Backwards America described the tragic state of public transportation in the United States. I wrote it up before Obama's proposal, and here's what I said—
These public transit cuts will likely be permanent in almost all cases. The ongoing recession presented a unique opportunity to rebuild America's public transportation system. We tore down the one we used to have in the 1950s to build roads & highways. And we never stopped building roads & highways. And when it came time to "stimulate" the economy, we poured money into building roads & highways. We built roads & highways as though the oil would never run out, as though gasoline was just another Free Lunch. After all, we are Americans. We are entitled. We deserve that Free Lunch.
And what of the taxes we put on all that gasoline we burn? All the revenue goes toward building or repairing roads & highways. In fact, we've built so many roads & highways since the 1950s that the revenue from the gasoline tax is no longer sufficient to keep them in good repair.
Who said this isn't a Great Country?
I had our precarious oil supply situation in mind when I wrote that. If the global economy ever does return to robust demand growth, we will face another oil price shock. But building public transportation to mitigate a crisis that may occur some years from now requires wisdom and long term thinking, neither of which exists in American politics.
Before I wrote about the crisis in public transportation, I pointed out that basic services in America are literally falling apart in Our Crumbling Infrastructure — Patch & Pray. This problem only recently came to Barry Ritholtz's attention because a civil engineer called up a talk show Barry was on and told him about it. I'm quite sure the only reason they were talking about infrastructure at all was because of President Obama's initiative.
Barry's blog The Big Picture is immensely popular—only the fatuous Paul Krugman and Dealbook at the New York Times get more traffic in the business & economics realm—so I'm glad he's starting to see ... The Big Picture. OK, I'm a little bitter, I admit it. At least Ritholtz made the graphic below, which I didn't have when I wrote my story back in July before the bogus infrastructure proposal.
The report card on America's infrastructure. We need to invest $2.2 trillion over the next five years to get things back to where they should be.
Obama's proposal is just more election year bullshit. As we would expect, there is nothing in his proposal that addresses problems with wastewater, transit, solid waste, public parks & recreation, levees, inland waterways, hazardous waste, energy, drinking water, dams or bridges.
No! We propose a plan to rebuild 150,000 miles of roads & highways instead.
Only those who were alive during the Great Depression remember times as hard as those we are living in now. For almost all of the people alive today, these are uniquely difficult & dangerous times. But nobody alive today, including those who remember the Great Depression, has ever witnessed such immense stupidity Human Folly on such a colossal scale.
The ocean liner has hit the iceberg, and the ship is slowly but surely sinking into the water. Few notice, and the ones who are proclaiming the ship is sinking, the ship is sinking! are generally ignored. I would like to think that this Surreal Denial will be overcome, but the absurd public discourse in the United States tells me that Reality will not intrude on our Happy World anytime soon.
We will continue to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic until one day in the perhaps not-so-distant future, the ship will, in some metaphorical sense, disappear beneath the waves altogether.
I thought you might enjoy this Tech Ticker video For Better or For Worse, "Let’s Get Real!" Says Scott Bleier. Although Scott has only a limited perspective on the Empire's Decline, he is still willing to call bullshit on green shoots, double dips, recovery summers, and all the rest. Of course, Scott can't use the word bullshit, but I can
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