Infrastructure – The Movie

Jon Oliver has another excellent investigative report, this time on the way that America’s leaders act so cavalierly about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The American public of course thinks that raising money to pay for repairs and maintenance is a sign that godless Communists are taking over by taxing the rich of their hard-earned dollars when that money could be used to buy yachts. They seem to think that elves will magically appear in the night and repair things for free.

It is a telling statement on the appalling state of political leadership in the US that the determination to give tax cuts to the rich dominates over raising money for major spending on infrastructure even though everyone is aware of the need to do so.

All the signs are that we are getting pretty close to not just one major failure (that has happened already with roads and bridges) but to either a series of events in rapid succession or an event that paralyzes an entire major city for a considerable length of time. That seems to be the only kind of thing that will focus people’s attention.


  1. busterggi says

    Of course elves aren’t going to repair our infrastruture -- Jesus will after he comes back, its on his list right below destroying Israel & exterminating the Jews.

  2. fwtbc says

    Did anyone else watch that trailer and come away thinking “You know… I’d watch the shit out of that movie!”

  3. Holms says

    Another method of obtaining the cash for adequate mantainence is to reduce expenditure. Sadly, it seems America is more likely to reduce maintainence budgets to fund more military hardware than the other way around.

  4. says

    I feel like my life is unlived without watching that whole movie now…

    “Would that this hoodie is a time hoodie!” — Dean Pelton.

  5. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    The really frustrating aspect of this is not only do we have all these potential disasters just waiting to happen, but as Ezra Klein noted back in 2005, it was the perfect time to invest in infrastructure:

    So the thing we’d typically worry about with high deficits? It’s not happening. It’s not close to happening. Interest rates aren’t high. They’re ridiculously, comically, insanely low. But in the coming years, they’ll rise again. So that’s one reason we should do infrastructure now rather than later: If we do it later, it will cost us more, as interest rates will have risen. We’ll have missed the big sale.

    The other big thing is that unemployment in the construction sector remains wracked by unemployment. There are construction workers who need work right now. Putting them to work today would be a huge boon to the economy in a way it won’t be in, say, 10 years, when they’ll (hopefully) have work.

    And the irony is that so many of the people who would have screamed bloody murder at the idea of using infrastructure repair as a fiscal stimulus are the same people who sneer at welfare/food stamps etc., because nothing is free. Except when we need roads and bridges maintained and that should magically happen without government spending or taxes.

  6. jufulu says

    @Uncle Ebeneezer. This, absolutely this. Not financing infrastructure repairs at a time that money was nearly for free (yes you do have to pay it back) was a missed opportunity. For a great deal of our infrastructure, we can never catch up. It will degrade at a faster rate that it can be repaired or replaced. Right now I live in Spokane WA and it is driving me crazy watching them having to band-aid everything.
    On top of that, there is no faster way to pump money into the economy than construction of of infrastructure projects, the ripple effect is huge. Besides the construction workers, you get : Engineers, surveyors, material testers, material suppliers, subcontractors, equipment suppliers,etc,etc,etc.

    By way of disclosure, before the financial meltdown, I managed construction for one of the larger cities in So Cal.

  7. lorn says

    Theere are reasons that people want to delay or hold back on maintenance and new construction.

    The system is structured to favor new construction over maintenance of existing structures. The federal highway trust funds and other transportation funding is available for new construction, but not maintenance. The system was set up to allow federal funding to cater to developers and their desires. There are literal billions for new highways to serve development but maintaining existing roads, bridges, and highways is a state or local problem. Upkeep gets kicked down the road where it gets a lot more expensive. This is made worse by tight state budgets as cutting taxes has become a method of gaining votes, while throwing away efficiency and the future.

    There is also a push by established construction concerns to limit the number of rebuilding and replacement projects under way at one time. Most of these groups are set up to maximize profits running a set number of employees. They can stretch or shrink a bit but there are limits. If their maximum capacity is exceeded they either have to hire ore people, expensive and at a considerable loss of profitability, and/or, depending on the scale of the expansion, other contractors have to be let into the market. They object vehemently to allowing competitors to get a foothold in their previously closed system.

    There is also a less parochial, but no less self centered, concern from the right; If too many large projects open up labor costs will rise and organized labor will start trying to organize. The right hates when that happens.

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