Monday, March 24, 2008

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure...

From a news article I just read....

The Army Corps of Engineers worked through the night to plug the breaks with sandbags, and that work appeared to be holding as of Sunday afternoon, Preslar said.

"Right now, it's kind of a wait-and-see game," she said.

Corps of Engineers spokesman P.J. Spaul said the levee near Pocahontas was built in the 1940s. The levee district charged with its maintenance dissolved in the 1960s, leaving it to sag and have trees to grow up in its banks over the last 40 years, Spaul said.

"There were two, 24-inch pipes that cut through the levee. At one time, they had closure gates on them, but they couldn't be closed" Saturday, Spaul said. "Everything was rusted out on them."

Arkansas emergency management officials have said early estimates for statewide damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure was at $2 million, though that figure was expected to grow. Forecasts show it likely will be the middle of this week before rivers statewide see significant drops.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has declared 35 counties disaster areas.

I wonder where all of the money for maintaining the public infrastructure has gone over the past 30-40 years? It would be interesting to see the data for the entire U.S. as a whole - broken down by the various budget categories - to see where the money has shifted to, or where it has disappeared. I have to believe that on the whole, public funding has increased dramatically, but at the same time, basic public services have actually decreased in their efficiency and effectiveness and/or public safety and/or actual benefit to "the public".

Police; fire; public health/hospitals/research; education/schools; water and wastewater treatment; highways, streets and bridges; airports; waste disposal/landfills; wildlife/environmental/pollution; emergency/disaster/aid (think Katrina), poverty/homelessness/unemployment; addiction; abuse; foreign aid; the military; scientific/energy research; and on and on. I've probably missed over half of the areas where we spend our tax dollars.

Note that I am talking about public funding at all levels - city, county, state, and federal.

If I had to make a guess right now, in this moment, at 2:12 in the morning, I would have to guess that the bulk of the public funding goes to feed the monster itself. The administration of the public services, but not the public services themselves. The money never gets to the public - the end user.

It gets chewed through on things like trucking ice around the country (and storing it) for months and months on end after Katrina. Finally, someone decided it would be most cost effective just to let it melt. It gets chewed and burned through paying the salaries of the idiots doing this kind of shit. And paying for their benefits, retirement, vacations, healthcare. In this case, the ice shipping/storage "only" cost the taxpayers around $100 million dollars.

Even if it were only $10 million, that's a lot of fucking money - $10 million here and $10 million there - figure out how to save $10 million ten times in a year and you have $100 million. I would bet that someone with balls could come up with a billion or two (or ten or twenty billion) of waste within the "system" pretty easily.

Then we could afford to pay someone in Arkansas to go grease the fucking gates on the fucking double barrell 24" pipes through the levee and throw some dirt on the levee while they are at it. Or replace them when they rust out.

I'm only using this current news as an example. I am of the opinion that people who buy land and build homes and businesses within the 100 year flood plain are idiots - or at least ignorant - or at least poor and cannot afford land anywhere else. Levees or no levees - or the illusion of levees that will actually prevent flooding.

Then you have the State of Mississippi diverting $600 million in Katrina relief housing funds to expand the port there. While people are still living in trailers so contaminated with formaldehyde that it's making people sick. They haven't built much/any new rental or public housing there. Casinos, hotels, single family homes which are out of the economic reach of the poor. $60 million will build a lot of fucking public/affordable housing.

The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. The publicly funded re-distribution of wealth in this country continues before our very eyes, under our very noses.

Remember Enron? The "public", the people, we the people, are being "Enron'd" by our own government and special interest groups (read lobbyists). Where do you think the largest pile/pool of money is? It's tax dollars. Our tax dollars. Ripe for the plucking.

But the message is the same wherever you look and whatever example you choose to look at - something has got to change.

FYI, The Brookings Institute has an online "reading room" on issues learned from the Katrina debacle - but these same principles are applicable all across the country - flooding in Arkansas, Interstate bridges collapsing in Minnesota, and on and on. I'm going to spend some time reading about this stuff.

If you are not outraged, you're not paying attention.

1 comment:

msHedgehog said...

There's certainly a growing opportunity over there for brightish US politicians to move infrastructure up the list of priorities. Especially in a recession, when economists would recommend it too. People are starting to take an interest in it, so they could get themselves an incentive there that they don't usually have.