Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention

Yesterday, a massive water main rupture shut down part of the Washington area Beltway, tying up traffic and swamping cars. From the Associated Press story:

“At one point, water from the broken main shot eight or nine feet in the air, said Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There was significant damage to the office park, with chunks of asphalt strewn across the parking lot, building windows shattered and three cars filled with water.

“It looks like somewhere where you would go white water rafting,” Riggins said.”

Advance reports discussing President Obama’s State of the Union message tonight note that he will be talking about, among other things, investing the nation’s resources on infrastructure renewal: roads, sewers, bridges and more. Already, Republican budget hawks and the conservative talk shows are mocking this as simply a euphemism for more “out of control spending.”

Addressing this country’s dangerously decrepit infrastructure will be expensive all right, but it is definitely an investment, and not undertaking it immediately is irresponsible, short-sighted, dangerous and foolish. For a quick refresher on why the neglect of U.S. infrastructure has been a scandalous breach of duty  of duty by generations of U.S. leadership, read this.

5 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Finance, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, U.S. Society

5 responses to “Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention

  1. tgt

    This is something that I think needs to be stressed. There’s never any time for maintenance. Even in my work as a Software Engineer, there’s always money for new features, but we never have time to update what we’ve previously done.

    • Absolutely; a pet issue of mine, and maybe the most neglected national responsibility of them all

      • tgt

        The issues seems to stem from an inherent flaw. Most people don’t understand the importance of maintenance. Unless they see an improvement, money spent is a waste. They don’t think, this costs $10 now and $1 every year. They just see $10 and are pissed when they hear they need to spend another $10 later. They already bought that! It’s not even broken!

  2. Michael

    When the president announced his stimulus plan early in his presidency, I assumed he would have included infrastructure. Generally, when you need to throw a lot of money around to create temporary jobs and stimulate the economy, it is time to take care of the infrastructure. I guess this President either wasn’t paying attention, or didn’t get up to speed on how to run a country in time.

    Politicians and managers don’t understand maintenance and lifespans. Bridges DON’T last forever. They are designed for a specific lifespan. You need to have plans in place to replace them BEFORE that lifespan is up. Sewer systems, gas lines, need to be treated likewise. When I bought my house several years, ago, I knew it would need a new roof in 6-7 years. I almost have enough to get that replaced in year 5 now and will replace it before it fails. Why shouldn’t we expect as much out of our professional politicians and state employees?

    I cringe everytime I drive over a bridge that I know is in year 50 of its 30 year design lifespan.

  3. Elizabeth

    A rambling response, but I think it may all tie together at the end.

    Certain sectors of the professional population have been warning against the deterioration of our national infrastructure for decades. I live outside Washington, DC and more than 20 years ago engineers warned that the Key Bridge (a la Francis Scott Key) was one of the most dangerous in the nation. Nothing has been done to correct that; though there is ongoing a grand effort for the Memorial Bridge (which is considered relatively safe), but all that has done is tie up traffic.

    It’s really great that President Eisenhower put into motion the forces that created our great interstate highway system. Did it ever occur to him that this system would be built and then just ignored for 45 years? I think not. It seems clear to me that Eisenhower expected this system to be not just built, but maintained as well…

    Let’s get this just straight here: we live in terror of Al Qaeda, but aside from the occasional shoe- or crotch-bomber, I see no action to protect our electrical systems. our gas systems, our highways. (And frankly, I worrry constantly about the container ships that cross customs daily with perhaps 1 out of a hundred being really inspected. ) I know, I know: CIA and Homeland Security would rather have us think that’s it’s stuff we DON’T hear about that make the diffference… I tend to believe the CIA, but when Janet Napolitano grabs every mike in sight to tell us what a good job she’s doing, her “secret ops” analogy breaks down.

    The most important thing we can do is protect our infrastucture — already at a critical stage — from other terrorist attacks. Example: We had a wet snow storm in the Washington, DC environs four days ago. We were without power for two days. Verizon, our inimitable and evil phone service provider, tells it will be FEBRUARY 4 until our lines can be fixed. They have a monopoly here: where are the the anti-trust people who can make these people do their job? Just a question.

    But if Verizon can’t deal with a simple snow storm, what then can they do when and/or if a terrorist strike occurs? We are left with iffy internet access (and thus news) and a phone system that goes right to e-mail. This, to me, doesn’t augur very well for the much-vaunted infrastructure American presumably possesses — or for the protection by Homeland Security for that matter.

    Al Quada istn’t dumb. Kill a bunchof people in Omahma. or the businesses in Old Town Aleandria, and THAT would strike fear in the hearts of all Americans. But let us go our our merrry way and let our own infrastructure destoy iself. What a great idea. Let’s just assume that Al Qaeda is composed of a bunch of ignorant camel jockeys. WRONG.

    I get a water bill every quarter from the City of Alexandria, Virginia. It is not all that steep. However once a year I get a whopping bill which is in excess of $600 — for sewage treatment. taxes on services, etc. I know they’re strapped, but what do I pay my exorbitatant real estate taxes for?

    Tobe honest, we opted to buy a home in the 450-year-old of City of Alexandria. It’s a great place to live, amd we’re willing to pay fot it. Just tell us what the money’s going for… (And the unethical behavior of our Congressman Jim Moran does not make us feel better…)

    Every single year the businesses on the waterfront of Old Town Alexandria are flooded by one storm or another. They all clean up and are open for business shortly. If we had real infrastructure development would this happening with such regularity? This is an historic place, one of the oldest incorporated ciies in America, home of George Washington et, al.

    Why then is it okay to let everything fall down around our heels? We have a monolithic (and beautiful) high school that is SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM in Virginia college test scores and college matriculation — this from the wealthiest jurisdiction in the state. Why? More than 40% of school age children in Alexandria attend private schools, that’s why. Families simply will not allow their children obtain a very sub-standard K-12 education here. We have struggled with this as a family, because we believe in the public school system, but are simply not willing to sacrifice the future of our only son for a principle.

    I bring this up because teachers, schools, teachers’ unions, are all part of the infrastructure that is falling apart. Think beyond the box. It’s not just highways, bridges, water systems, etc. It is the very fabric of what infrastructure means in America.

    Let’s wake up and demand change. If it means going after the teachers’ unions, so be it. If it means taking back our own school systems, and firing the executives there, so be it. If it means telling Japan and others that we have to have really, open trade, so be it. We should act more strongly as a nation and refuse to accept the collusion and unfair business practices of other Americans and other nations because we are in their pockets and/or because we chose to at one time to see them as a bulwark against Communism. After all, Fascits or Communist, they tried to kill us all. And in the end, the ended their own regimes.

    So there.

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