Tag Archives: transportation

Ethics Alarms Déjà Vu And The President’s Infrastructure Proposal

The President has proposed an infrastructure upgrade, more or less. I don’t care about the numbers: whatever it is, it’s not enough. It is, however, something, and infrastructure renewal is a national emergency, indeed a crisis, that should not be derailed by partisan bickering and gamesmanship. Will it further exacerbate the ballooning debt? Yes. Unlike much of the spending that has dug the nation a deeper hole than it is likely to ever escape, however, infrastructure is not discretionary spending.

Jonah Goldberg just issued a mind-meltingly ignorant and dishonest column for the Los Angeles Times titled “Is American infrastructure crumbling? Hardly.”

Shame on him. This is Trump Hate as national suicide. Our infrastructure has been crumbling for decades, with each year of neglect guaranteeing bigger expenses and hidden burdens on the economy, not to mention that cholera outbreaks when the sewage pipes and water pipes start breaking coast to coast.

I’ve been writing about this unethical nightmare of irresponsible leadership and government for years, here and elsewhere. Nothing has changed. Where necessary, as you read these excerpts from 2010 and 2011, just change the name of the President or the parties. The situation hasn’t changed, other than getting worse:

From Blame Everyone for Infrastructure Ruin: Unethical, Irresponsible Priorities from Reagan to Obama…

In the early Eighties, I oversaw and edited an independent study funded by the Highway Users Federation and the National Chamber Foundation called “Transport Tomorrow,” exploring the immediate need for transportation infrastructure repair and expansion in all modes of transportation: roads, railway, waterway, and airports. In the process of learning how dire the need for massive construction and repair was if America’s future commercial needs were to be met, the study commission made a disturbing discovery: urban water and sewer systems were crumbling too. There was literally not enough money to fix all the roads, bridges, tunnels, water mains and sewer pipes that had to be fixed, and the consequences of not doing so would be economic paralysis and worse, disease and even social unrest.

In the face of this looming and undeniably real disaster, the Reagan Administration did—pretty much nothing. Neither did the Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations, and even the Chamber of Commerce failed to make infrastructure repair one of its key issues. Oh, there were new projects, of course, and when a major bridge started to dump cars into rivers it was repaired. Holes were patched, pipes were replaced here and there. But the full-fledged commitment to the unsexy and incredibly expensive job of keeping the infrastructure sufficient to meet the needs of the nation, and protecting it from the ravages of use and time was deferred, and deferred, and deferred. Something was always more important: wars…tax cuts…the environment…health care. The Obama Administration is following this irresponsible pattern, except it has combined with the profligacy of the Bush Administration to push the Federal deficit into unprecedented dangerous territory. New taxes on just about everybody and everything are going to be needed to stave off financial ruin, and there will be little political will to spend any of the income on something as mundane, but crucial, as sewers.

The problem, however, has become infinitely worse since 1983, when “Transport Tomorrow” was released, and then as now, the attitude of our elected leaders is to let the next guy deal with the problem. Is this responsible? No. Is it cowardly? Yes. Is it a blatant, intentional and knowing distortion of priorities that will threaten American prosperity, jobs, and lives? Absolutely….

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

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Ethics Heroes: Andy Mitchell, Samee Dowlatshahi, And Friends

 

Rockwall, Texas resident Andy Mitchell posted a photo on Facebook of himself and Justin Korva, a young stranger whom Mitchell had picked up and driven to his job after seeing him walking to work in his work uniform  in 90 degree weather. He was stunned and impressed to learn that Korva walks three miles each way to his low-paying job at Taco Casa, a fast food restaurant,

“To all the people that say they want to work but can’t find a job or don’t have a vehicle all I can say is you don’t want it bad enough!” Mitchell wrote on the Facebook post. Mitchell then used his post as a springboard to raise money to buy a car for Korva, who is 20.  It took less than 30 hours to raise $5,500. 

Samee Dowlatshahi, the owner of a pizza restaurant who had set up a donation box for Korva’s transportation inside his establishment,  contacted a friend at a local Toyota dealership. The friend told his boss about Korva, and persuaded the dealership to drop the price of a white 2004 Toyota Camry. This allowed Mitchell’s group to buy the car, pay Korva’s insurance for a year, and finance two years’ worth of oil changes along with a $500 gas card.

“Are you serious?” Korva said as Mitchell handed him the keys.

Dowlatshahi said,, “We just want you to know, seriously, this community, nothing we love better than to have someone who works hard. We take a lot of pride in that. It’s so hot out here, I can’t believe you walk even one mile in this heat.”

There is hope.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Facebook, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, U.S. Society, Workplace

Few Political Stories Make Me Angry. This One Makes Me Angry. And Frightened.

brideg-collapse

In these three posts—Blame Everyone for Infrastructure Ruin: Unethical, Irresponsible Priorities from Reagan to Obama (2010); Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention (2011); Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It. (2011), I laid out the unanswerable case for making national infrastructure renewal a priority. Let me just quote from the three, to save me typing time…

In the early Eighties, I oversaw an independent study funded by the Highway Users Federation and the National Chamber Foundation called “Transport Tomorrow,” exploring the immediate need for transportation infrastructure repair and expansion in all modes of transportation: roads, railway, waterway, and airports. In the process of learning how dire the need for massive construction and repair was if America’s future commercial needs were to be met, the study commission made a disturbing discovery: urban water and sewer systems were crumbling too. There was literally not enough money to fix all the roads, bridges, tunnels, water mains and sewer pipes that had to be fixed, and the consequences of not doing so would be economic paralysis and worse, disease and even social unrest.In the face of this looming and undeniably real disaster, the Reagan Administration did—pretty much nothing. Neither did the Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations…

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate.Will fixing the infrastructure add to the deficit? Not really, because it already is an expense that we know will have to be made, or else. If the sewer systems and waterworks break down, we start dying. If bridges collapse, we die too. That isn’t even mentioning the increasing costs in energy and commerce caused by a decaying transportation system. The sooner we pay for it, the less it will cost, so sooner is per se better for the economy, and it is perfect timing given the employment crisis.

Yes, Obama better have a way to pay for it, with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes. If he plays politics with the proposal by making it impossible for the GOP to support (as some pundits, like the Post’s Eugene Robinson, have advised), shame on him. This has to be paid for, but it also has to be done…If Obama puts a fair, reasonable, relatively pork-free proposal on the table, Republicans would be despicably unethical to reject it.

As we now know, the Obama Administration proposed, and the GOP Congress opposed. This is a long-term bi-partisan failure, but it must be remembered that Obama had no credibility on this issue, and he never did propose a a way to pay for it “with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes.”

I was reminded of this issue when I read yesterday about how engineers have concluded that over 9% of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient. Bridges are just part of the infrastructure disaster to come—just wait until the 200-year old sewer and water systems in some cities start breaking down, and we have Flint, Michigan times a thousand—but they are illustrative of our government’s failure. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Comment of the Day: “California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco”

astrodome

I’m behind on posting Comments of the Day, and the first to be sprung from the backlog is this, from johnburger2013, giving yet another account of political leaders defeating the public will to pursue expensive and irresponsible projects that do not and cannot live up to the promises made to justify them. I wonder if there is a category of informed people who simultaneously deride the motivation for the Brexit vote, and yet condemn debacles like the California high-speed rail project. The issue, as it usually is, is trust.

Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day (that day being almost a weeks ago) on the post, California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco:

Here in Houston, there is a constant litany of ideas about what to do with the Astrodome, it being one of the man-made wonders of the world (until the King Dome left it in the dust). The Dome was moth-balled when Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) was built about 11 years ago, after the Astros got their own facility in Downtown Houston (thank you, taxpayers), and the Dynamo got their own facility (thank you, taxpayers), and the Houston Texans got NRG Stadium (again, thank you, taxpayers). The Rockets never played there, but they have a new stadium, too (thank you a fourth time, taxpayers), so they are not to blame. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo doesn’t use the facility either, because they use NRG for their events (the parking stinks, though, as big-ass crowds of people have to take limited numbers of buses and light rail [which only goes to downtown, thank you a fifth time, taxpayers] to outlying parking venues).

Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, U.S. Society

California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco

The question posed by the unfolding California high-speed rail cataclysm is why the reaction to it should be a partisan or ideological issue at all. Are human beings capable of managing bias and learning hard truths from new information, or aren’t they?

High speed rail was promoted in California  as a green and virtuous way to propel commuters  from San Francisco to Los Angeles along at 220 miles an hour, completing the trip in a about  two and a half hours. It was going to involve minimal tax-payer cash,  with  billions arriving from private investors. It would be profitable, not requires state subsidies and be much less expensive than flying. Thus enthused and enlightened,  53.7 percent of approved the plan and a $9.95 billion bond.

It was a scam, a hustle, and a pack of lies.  Virginia Postrel writes at Bloomberg…

“California’s high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?”

Well said. I would add, “And will anyone learn from this fiasco?” Specifically, will anyone learn that ideologically-driven officials will always press policies in defiance of reality, if the public lets them, or more precisely, trusts them.

The Los Angeles Times published a stunning report on how corrupt this enterprise has been from the start. Here’s sample:
Continue reading

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Filed under Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Science & Technology

On The Other Hand, Libertarians Have Good Reasons To Distrust The Government, Like Washington’s 520 Bridge Toll Trap

SR-520-toll-signNicola Livic, of Redmond, Washington  has a transponder on his car that is linked to a credit card that automatically pays his tolls when he crosses Washington’s floating Highway 520 Bridge. His credit-card number was changed by his bank due to a fraud threat, so his online account stopped working.

The motor-vehicle department also had his mailing address wrong, so when it tried to alert him that his tolls were in arrears, the letter ended up who-knows-where. Meanwhile, fees and fines were added, and compounded. By the time Mr. Livic realized the problem, he owed $3,545 to the state, less than $300 of which were the tolls.

He appealed the bill at the state Department of Transportation (DOT), and was told, in essence, “Tough.”

He is not alone. The system, in which a photo of a vehicle is taken as it crosses the bridge and the owner is billed, but without subsequent warnings or reminders if payment is overdue, is guaranteed—a conspiracy theorist would say designed— to generate snafus that the citizen is always going to pay for, and through the nose. The fine on each missed four dollar toll is $40, and over time, the fines turn into multi-thousand-dollar collection actions. Appeals go to an administrative review system set up by the transportation agency itself. This is what we commonly call  “a conflict of interest.” The state makes an average of $65,000 just in fines on the 520 bridge tolls each day. It loves this system. Continue reading

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Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It.

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate. Continue reading

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