Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

The United States is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, November 8, 2019

I considered naming this entry “It’s All Bad: Bridges, Schools, Roads, Dams, Aviation, Drinking Water, Energy, Inland Waterways, Ports, Schools, Wastewater, Solid Waste, Transit, Public Parks, Hazardous Waste, etc.,” but decided to change it.

Perhaps the initial title was some help to guide the reader in the direction the entry would go.

Eventually, it’ll cost you money… but it’s already doing that.

Read on to see how.

Bluntly, America’s Economic Infrastructure sucks, and blows gnarly chunks.

What’s “Economic Infrastructure”?

Glad you asked.

Broadly, “Economic Infrastructure” refers to several categories of physical improvements which facilitate civil society, providing it an opportunity to grow.

Sometimes also simply called “infrastructure,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines 16 categories, or Critical Infrastructure Sectors, including (in alphabetical order):

1.) Chemical – converts various raw materials into over 70,000 different products essential to modern life, including Basic, Specialty, and Agricultural chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Consumer products

2.) Commercial Facilities – diverse sites that draw large crowds of people for shopping, business, entertainment, or lodging.

3.) Communications – provides a critical, enabling function and integral component of the U.S. economy, underlying the operations of all businesses, public safety organizations, and government via terrestrial, satellite, wireline and wireless transmission systems

4.) Critical Manufacturing – metals, machinery, transportation equipment, electrical, appliance, components

5.) Dams – dam projects, navigation locks, levees, hurricane barriers, mine tailings impoundments, and other similar water retention and/or control facilities.

6.) Defense Industrial Base – enables research, development, design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts to meet U.S. military requirements.

7.) Emergency Services – paid and volunteer at the federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial levels of government, including city police departments and fire stations, county sheriff’s offices, Department of Defense police and fire departments, and town public works departments, including private sector resources, such as industrial fire departments, private security organizations, and private emergency medical services providers

8.) Energy – provides an “enabling function” across all critical infrastructure sectors. More than 80% of the country’s energy infrastructure is owned by the private sector, supplying fuels to the transportation industry, electricity to households and businesses, and other sources of energy integral to growth and production across the nation.

9.) Financial Services – depository institutions, investment products providers, insurance companies, other credit and financing organizations, and providers of the critical financial utilities and services that support these functions, and allow customers to: Deposit funds and make payments to other parties, Provide credit and liquidity to customers, Invest funds for long and short periods, Transfer financial risks between customers

10.) Food and Agriculture – composed of an estimated 2.1 million farms, 935,000 restaurants, and more than 200,000 registered food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities. This sector accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation’s economic activity.

11.) Government Facilities – a wide variety of buildings, located in the United States and overseas, owned or leased by federal, state, local, and tribal governments. Many government facilities are open to the public for business activities, commercial transactions, or recreational activities while others not open to the public contain highly sensitive information, materials, processes, and equipment. These facilities include general-use office buildings and special-use military installations, embassies, courthouses, national laboratories, and structures that may house critical equipment, systems, networks, and functions. In addition to physical structures, the sector includes cyber elements that contribute to the protection of sector assets (e.g., access control systems and closed-circuit television systems) as well as individuals who perform essential functions or possess tactical, operational, or strategic knowledge.

12.) Healthcare and Public Health – protects all sectors of the economy from hazards such as terrorism, infectious disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. While healthcare tends to be delivered and managed locally, the public health component of the sector, focused primarily on population health, is managed across all levels of government: national, state, regional, local, tribal, and territorial.

13.) Information Technology – operated by a combination of entities — often owners and operators and their respective associations — that maintain and reconstitute the network, including the Internet, central to the nation’s security, economy, and public health and safety as businesses, governments, academia, and private citizens

14.) Nuclear Reactors Materials and Waste – provide electricity to millions of Americans, to the medical isotopes used to treat cancer patients.

15.) Transportation Systems – moves people and goods quickly, safely, and securely through the country and overseas. Includes Aviation, Highway and Motor Carrier, Maritime Transportation System, Mass Transit and Passenger Rail, Pipeline Systems, Freight Rail, Postal and Shipping.

16.) Water and Wastewater – Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. Thus, ensuring the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment and service is essential to modern life and the Nation’s economy.

Altogether, every item in those categories all facilitate commerce, private enterprise, are component parts of a local, and state economy, and as a whole, comprise the national economy. Some of the sectors, such as Food and Agriculture, and Communications, are almost wholly owned by private enterprise. In fact, the only publicly owned, i.e., governmentally-owned, are Government Facilities. There are perhaps a few others, but there are very few, and very far in-between.

Each sector is interconnected; there is not one sector which stands alone, self-sufficient and isolated. Some sectors are more interconnected than others, such as the Communications sector, while others, such as Dams, may not have as many connections. But each one is interdependent upon the others. What affects one, affects all others. It is like a line from the John Donne poem Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII, most often called “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” which states in pertinent part that, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

All of that brings us to our next point.

As it pertains to common use by all, Economic Infrastructure is considered by Engineers, Architects, Urban Planners, Politicians, and even Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders as being – at the most fundamental level – those faculties and facilities which enable and promote commerce, and improve the lives of residents.

Before going further, let me interrupt that train of thought to say this about socialism.

Properly defined, socialism is a condition in which the government controls the means and the method of production – such as with a government-owned factory. The former Soviet Union (now known as “Russia”) had many such government-owned factories.
The United States has NEVER had any such thing.
And, if one considered the coinage and currency in their pockets
– minted and printed by the United States Treasury Department on government-owned machines –
it is STILL not considered an example of socialism.

Why not?

The raw materials – the paper, ink, metals, and machines to make it – all came from the Private Sector via publicly bid contracts.

Continuing…

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) rates America’s Infrastructure a “D+.” https://www.InfrastructureReportCard.org/

The ASCE identifies some 16 very similar categories of capital improvements as being (in alphabetical order):
1.) Aviation
2.) Bridges
3.) Dams
4.) Drinking Water
5.) Energy
6.) Hazardous Waste
7.) Inland Waterways
8.) Levees
9.) Ports
10.) Public Parks
11.) Rail
12.) Roads
13.) Schools
14.) Solid Waste
15.) Transit
16.) Wastewater

About the report, they wrote in part that “Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes The Infrastructure Report Card, which grades the current state of national infrastructure categories on a scale of A through F. Since 1998, America’s infrastructure has earned persistent D averages, and the failure to close the investment gap with needed maintenance and improvements has continued. But the larger question at stake is the implication of D+ infrastructure on America’s economic future. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card found the national grade for infrastructure remains at a “D+” — the same grade the United States received in 2013 — suggesting only incremental progress was made over the last four years toward restoring America’s infrastructure. ASCE evaluated 16 categories of infrastructure in the 2017 Report Card, with grades ranging from a “B” for Rail to a “D-” for Transit.

Consider also this: “The need for wastewater infrastructure exceeds $271 Billion.”

So… how does this affect you, and your family?

Check this out.

In 2016, the ASCE published a document titled “Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future,” which stated in part the following:

“The cost of deteriorating infrastructure takes a toll on families’ disposable household income and impacts the quality and quantity of jobs in the U.S. economy. With deteriorating infrastructure, higher business costs will be incurred in terms of charges for services and efficiency, which will lead to higher costs incurred by households for goods and services due to the rising prices passed on by businesses.

“As a consequence, U.S. businesses will be more inefficient. As costs rise, business productivity falls, causing GDP to drop, cutting employment, and ultimately reducing personal income.

“From 2016 to 2025, each household will lose $3,400 each year in disposable income due to infrastructure deficiencies; and if not addressed, the loss will grow to an average of $5,100 annually from 2026 to 2040, resulting in cumulative losses up to almost $34,000 per household from 2016 to 2025 and almost $111,000 from 2016 to 2040 (all dollars in 2015 value).

“Over time, these impacts will also affect businesses’ ability to provide well-paying jobs, further reducing incomes. If this investment gap is not addressed throughout the nation’s infrastructure sectors by 2025, the economy is expected to lose almost $4 trillion in GDP, resulting in a loss of 2.5 million jobs in 2025.

“Moreover, workers who are employed will earn lower wages, and in the long term, many higher paying jobs in technology and other leading sectors will be replaced by jobs that fulfill needs brought on by the inefficiencies of deteriorating infrastructure.

“Closing each infrastructure investment gap is possible, and the economic consequences caused by these gaps are avoidable with investment.”

Does that hit home hard enough?

And yet, we’re almost there.

What about the roads in your town, city, state, and nationwide? Are they in pristine condition? I sincerely doubt it. Pothole-filled roads tear up your car, don’t they? That costs you money, and time, because you gotta’ find another way around the rotten roads so your car won’t be destroyed by traveling upon them. But, what if you can’t?

Business Insider magazine recently published a story headlined about America’s most dangerous bridges in all 50 states.
https://www.businessinsider.com/most-dangerous-bridges-america-2017-5

Reckon what it’d cost to fix ’em ALL? Not just to fill every pothole, or fix every cracked roadway, but to (if necessary) rebuild EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY road in the United States? And while you’re at it, expand and build more – and add to it coast-to-coast high-speed, mag-lev monorail trains. China, Germany, England, France, Japan, and other nations already have high-speed trains, and monorail trains are even in Disneyland.

WHY CAN’T WE BUILD A BETTER SYSTEM FOR EVERYONE TO USE?

Imagine what it’d be like to be able to – in one hour, or less – be 300 miles away from your residence… to work… on a daily basis! Already, the United States Census Bureau states that the average commute-to-work time in the U.S. is 26.1 minutes. But for many people, travel time to work is at least twice that, or more… simply because of traffic – roads are crowded, areas are densely populated, and transit options are not abundant outside of large urban population centers. America is NOT being interconnected. Rural areas are suffering declining population, and with it go schools, hospitals, job opportunities, and and entire array of services, governmental and private.

About transportation and roads, the ASCE wrote in part that,

“By 2025, the annual costs imposed on the U.S. economy from deteriorating transportation infrastructure will increase to $238 billion (increasing by $91 billion over 2015 costs) and by 2040, the costs will have increased to $575 billion ($428 billion above 2015 and $337 billion above 2025 costs), with cumulative costs mounting to $1 trillion by 2025, and $3.2 trillion by 2040. In addition, as a consequence of those costs, America’s projected surface transportation deficiencies would be expected to cost the national economy cumulatively almost $1 trillion in GDP by 2025, rising to $3.05 trillion through 2040. In 2025, about 1 million jobs are expected to be lost. By 2040, these gross job losses will be mitigated to slightly more than 470,000 jobs, but a greater proportion of this apparent job rebound will be due to the need to expand industries associated with automotive repairs.”

That’s almost like real money.

What about water, eh?

Can’t stop the rain, can you?

Nope, but you can manage rainfall, and THAT’S a FACT!

The ASCE wrote this in part about water:

“Of all the infrastructure types, water is the most fundamental to life, and is irreplaceable for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Farms in many regions cannot grow crops without irriga-tion. Government offices, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments cannot operate without clean water. Moreover, many industries, including food and chemical manufacturing and power plants, for example could not operate without the clean water that is a component of finished products or that is used for industrial processes or cooling. Drinking water systems collect source water from rivers and lakes, remove pollutants, and distribute safe water. Wastewater systems collect used water and sewage, remove contaminants, and discharge clean water back into the nation’s rivers and lakes for future use. Wet weather investments, such as sanitary sewer overflows, prevent various types of pollutants like sewage, heavy metals, or fertilizer from lawns from ever reaching the waterways.”

But think also about this: The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has estimated that the TOTAL cost of insured economic losses alone which were brought about by hurricanes from 1986-2015 was… $515.4 Billion.

But, if that’s not enough, consider this:

According to NOAA, “the U.S. has sustained 241 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2018).
The total cost of these 241 events exceeds $1.6 trillion.

“During 2018, the U.S. experienced an active year of billion-dollar disaster events including the 4th highest total number of events, only behind the years 2017, 2011 and 2016. In 2018, the U.S. also experienced the 4th highest total costs ($91 billion) only behind the years 2017, 2005 and 2012.”

Gee… that’s almost like real money, too!

But, you know what?

We could fix that. We could remedy, or at least significantly ameliorate such catastrophic losses. Seriously, we could.

The Dutch did.

In the Winter of 1953, from January 31 to February 1, the worst natural disaster to ever hit modern Europe occurred, which flooded the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Scotland, claimed 2551 lives, with 1836 in the Netherlands alone. Because 20% of Dutch land lies below sea level, and 50% of it is less than 1 meter (3.3ft) above sea level, 60% of it is prone to flooding.

As a result of that storm, in the Netherlands, 9% of all farmland was submerged, 30,000 animals drowned, 47,300 buildings were damaged, 10,000 of which were destroyed, which cost an estimated $636 million in 1953 dollars in real, and economic losses. The 2019 dollar value would be $6,116,057,079 – not exactly chump change.

Relief was an international effort, and the United States Army flew helicopters from Germany to rescue those stranded upon their roofs.

But the Netherlanders did something that Americans have not yet (if ever) done:
They got smart, and decided that NEVER AGAIN would they EVER be subjected to such damage.

Not only did they get smart, they did it in a HURRY!

The Dutch were essentially sick and tired of being sick and tired… and of being flooded. They conceived the Deltawerks project as being an ultimate, long-term solution to, and practical end of, the ongoing problem of regular catastrophic flooding from unpredictable North Sea storms. They took a very long-view, long-term perspective toward the future, and built protections for disasters which would occur at least:

1 per 10,000 years in North and South Holland (excluding Wieringermeer);
1 per 4,000 years for other areas at risk from sea flooding;
1 per 2,000 years for transition areas between high land and low land;
1 per 1,250 years for South Holland areas at risk from river flooding, and;
1 per 250 years for other areas at risk from river flooding

The Dutch Deltawerks site states this about the project:

“Twenty days after the flood of 1953, the Delta commission was inaugurated. The commission would give advice about the execution of the Deltaplan, that would, in the long run, increase the safety of the Delta area. Although safety was the number one priority, the seaways De Nieuwe Waterweg and the Western Schelde would have to stay open, because of the economic importance of the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. In order to be able to build dams in the rivers’ mouths, some auxiliary dams would first have to be built in the Zandkreek, the Krammer, the Grevelingen, and the Volkerak. These dams were known as ‘compartment dams’, since they would divide the large area of water into multiple compartments. In 1959, the Delta Law was passed, in order to organise the construction of the dams. The building of the ‘Delta Works’ was such an enormous project, that it was sometimes referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ – and not without good reason.

“By 1958 the first Deltawork was already operational. It was the storm barrier in the river Hollandse Ijssel. This barrier (not a dam) was of great importance because it protected the densely populated western part of the Netherlands (known as ‘the Randstad’) against future flooding. Three years later, in 1961, two more mouths were closed: the Veerse Gat and the Zandkreek. The water between these dams soon became fresh and is now known as the Veerse Meer (Lake of Veere).”

They built a nationwide water management system which included an entire array of solutions ranging from dams, dikes, locks, levees, even storm surge barriers – a HUGE ingenious mechanical wall-like devices to lessen or eliminate the problem.

And they were SERIOUS about it!

Among the most amazing components of the system is the “Maeslantkering, which is a movable storm surge barrier spanning the New Waterway (Nieuwe Waterweg), a canal that connects the river Rhine to the North Sea. The Maeslantkering acts as a final line of defense for Rotterdam against high levels of incoming seawater. It is one of largest moving structures on Earth, and the most impressive project of Delta Works.

“The Maeslantkering is a set of two swinging doors almost as long as the Eiffel tower and weighs about four times as much. It is the only storm surge barrier in the world with such large moveable parts. The storm surging doors have a length of 210 meters each, and 22 meters high, each having 237 meters long steel truss swivel with ball-socket movement on both the banks of the waterway.”

Was it expensive? Yes.

Planning and construction for the project began in 1954, with costs estimated at approximately 3.3 billion guilder, which at the time equaled 20% of national GDP, and was spread out over 25 years to complete such a massive engineering project. Costs were financed primarily by their national budget, with an American contribution through the Marshall Plan of 400 milion guilder. As well, the discovery of Dutch natural gas resources provided significant contributions toward financing, and upon completion in 1997, costs were established at 8.2 billion guilder. The Deltawerks project website states this about cost: “The massive project cost more than the expected 680-900 million Euros. Altogether the Delta Works cost nearly 5 billion Euros.”

But recall also that the value of the total economic loss from the 1953 winter storm was MORE THAN the total cost to build the entire system – which in 2019 dollars, the total loss is calculated to be $6,116,057,079.

Did it take long to build?

Yes, after 40 years, the final project was completed in 1997.

Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY YES!

(Article continues below the 1:10 time-lapse video of the closure of the van Maeslantkering surge barrier near Rotterdam, on September the 20th, 2008, in the Netherlands. The Maeslantkering surge barrier of the Deltawerk’s, is the world’s largest mechanically moving device. The fully automated storm surge barrier protects the densely populated area between The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Dordrecht against high tides from the North Sea. When closure is initiated, the doors close and fill up with water, causing them to sink down. This time-lapse video shows the test closure which takes 2.5 hours.)

In December 2013, Cyclone Xaver, a North Sea storm that packed wind gusts over 142mph, sustained winds over 90mph, claimed 15 lives, and affected at least 12 European nations, including UK, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Belgium, Isle of Man, Faroe Islands, and of course, the Netherlands.

While Netherlanders were affected, the damage done there was insignificant by comparison to 1953 North Sea Storm, because of the effective presence of Delta Works hydrological management projects. The Cyclone Xaver storm was so severe, that water levels were the highest since the North Sea flood of 1953 – at nearly 4 meters ABOVE normal sea level. And in response, the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier closed all 62 locks the night of 5 December, and several areas around Rotterdam experienced some flooding, with only minor flooding reported in Dordrecht and Vlaardingen.

“Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimates that insured wind losses from Extratropical Cyclone Xaver will range between €700 million [$963 million] and €1.4 billion [$1.926 billion], with the majority of the losses in Denmark, Germany, and the UK. Losses also occurred in the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, and Norway.”

America, on the other hand, has done nothing about their weather-related problems.
The maxim holds true that:
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

So… where are we going to get the money for all these very needful and greatly necessary Economic Infrastructure projects?

Taxes.

But I don’t want my taxes to go up!

Everyone should pay their fair share, right?

We shouldn’t – and we don’t – expect a 90-pound, 90-year-old granny to do as much work as a body-builder strongman, nor do we expect an average adult man to do as much as the body-builder strongman. And we certainly don’t expect a body-builder strongman to do the same level of work as either the average adult man, or the 90-pound, 90-year-old granny. Not everyone has the same ability, and everyone should pull their fair share.

Of course, those three characters represent following members of society: The sickly, weak, and impoverished, the average adult American, and the ultra-wealthy and their corporations.

Increasingly, the GOP has been telling the body-builder strongman to “sit down, take a break!,” while telling the 90-pound, 90-year-old granny and the average adult to shoulder the load the body-builder strongman was carrying.

If you’d been paying attention for the last 38 years, 9 months, 20 days – since the Reagan administration began – you’d know that almost without exception every tax cut that the Republicans passed has, in essence, been a tax cut for the wealthy, and for their corporations.

The wealthy have gotten the gold mine, while average working families in America have gotten the shaft.

During Eisenhower’s two-term Republican administration 1953-1961, personal income taxes upon the very wealthiest of Americans – and their corporations – was 90%+ for individuals, and for corporations was 30% and 52%.

See the screenshot from the IRS document “Corporation Income Tax Brackets and Rates, 1909-2002.” Here also is the document: Corporation Income Tax Brackets and Rates, 1909-2002

Presently, Personal Income Tax rates upon the wealthiest Americans is 37%, while upon corporations it’s 21%, both are a mere pittance, even though our nation has significantly increased in size (meaning that needs have also increased) and in GDP.

Since 1953, when American population was 160,184,192, to 2019, when the USCB estimates American population to be 329,958,930, that represents a 105% INCREASE in population. And yet, despite a greater need for more and increased governmental services, America’s tax revenue base is DECREASED?!? It’s like feeding a child’s portion to an adult thinking it’s enough to meet their nutritional needs. How bizarre, or preposterously absurd could you possibly get?!?

And, if you don’t think that the wealthy are corporation owners, think again.

An Internal Revenue Service document titled “Trends in Personal Wealth, 1976–1981” (p2, left column, bottom) states in part that, “As wealth increased (see Figure C), the relative importance of real estate for both male and female top wealth holders declined sharply. Conversely, corporate stock and certain types of bonds became increasingly significant as the amount of wealth increased. In light of the special tax treatment afforded the income from State and local bonds, these assets were especially attractive to those “well off” individuals seeking to lessen their income tax burden.”

For Republicans, tax cuts are like crack cocaine, or crystal meth – one hit and you immediately want more. They sell a bill of goods, despite the fact that it’s bogus, and convince the American people that their song-and-dance routine is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that by reducing Federal revenue, America will magically be made “great,” or like a bowl of Frosted Lucky Charms – “magically delicious.” Republicans have hooked America on tax cuts. It’s like a line in the Charles Dickens’ tale-made-movie “Oliver Twist,” in which the little orphaned urchin of a child Oliver says to Mr. Bumble “the cruel, pompous beadle of the poorhouse” where young Oliver is raised, “Please sir, I want some more.”

Republicans know that their smoke a mirrors game is concocted merely to get your support to vote for them. They don’t really care for you, because you’re not one of their wealthy donors. To them, you’re a pawn, a peon, a mere tool to be used to achieve their end.

And, Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, who eventually marry, and themselves become poor, like Oliver Twist, the GOP will be driven down along with the supporters of their tax cut philosophy.

There’s a reason why their “great communicator” President was a B-movie Hollywood actor, and why a carnival barker reality-game show host is the current president. It’s a mesmerizing made-for-teevee moment, a veritable surreality show in which the people are the biggest losers, and everyone in the administration gets fired.

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