The Media Will Hide The Decline

Crumbling American infrastructure is starting to pop up even in developed areas. This is not an issue of ye olde dam in a backwoods region bursting to drown five yokels. There are bridges, dams, and roads in the Acela corridor of America falling apart or standing brittle, just waiting for a test from Mother Nature. Train derailments are both killing passengers on trains and creating ecological problems due to oil spills. This has been on the public’s mind since the bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007, and the New York Times is finally on it. In what looks to be a preview for the future of America, the cover up of our decline will come from the top-down and be a partially engaged issue.

The article starts with a human interest bit to strike you emotionally, in order to let you, the reader, know that you, too, can be a victim of this problem. The lawyer of the person, who was not harmed but still received a settlement from the government for the accident, describes how this needs to be dealt with now. The Times then hits the reader with the harsh truth:

From coast to coast, the country’s once-envied collection of bridges, dams, pipelines, sewage treatment plants and levees is crumbling. Studies have shown that a lack of investment in public infrastructure costs billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, as people sit in traffic or wait for delayed shipments.

The Times’ truth is real and a problem that will accelerate as these projects age. The great tap dance for the rest of the article is an explanation of why this was allowed to happen and why governments are unable to fund these needed investments.

It is not just roads. Old pipelines are at risk and new pipelines are not being built. Drinking water may not be potable 100% of the time. Dams and levees may break due to storms they were intending to protect against. Bridges might collapse, and in fact hundreds if not thousands of bridges need attention, repair, and possible replacement. The reason for not addressing this dire problem? States are strapped for dollars. Budgets are under pressure. Tax revenue just has not increased with the growth of America. This is the infrastructure of the seat of the empire, not some Third World nation.

Why are state revenues not enough, if this is year six of the economic recovery? If unemployment is at generational lows, why are income taxes not rising to match this job growth? Obama’s recovery is laid bare by this omission. The federal gas tax is described as not growing fast enough since Americans drive more fuel efficient cars compared to 1993. But that issue was not a problem for fifteen years, as Americans continued to drive more and more miles to make up for that efficiency (note the five-year lull in mileage during the Obama era). How could Americans be driving more fuel efficient cars if the Times is always criticizing American truck and SUV culture? The holes in the Times story are frequent and large. There is no recovery, and the states are struggling due to stalled revenues and expanded social service expenditures.

The Feds are on this, and money is being allocated. It is not enough, though, per the Times and their expert opinion. This is the same progressive Gospel that has encouraged open borders for decades, straining old infrastructure even further by adding millions of additional users to roads, bridges, and water/sewer systems. American cities faced a similar problem in the 1920s and 1930s, due to the prior immigration wave that crammed millions of immigrants into America’s eastern seaboard. There is no pause to consider the water problems that California faces that is not just due to drought, but due to environmental regulations and stuffing the state with millions of Mexicans for the Left’s gain.

The tap dancing continues. No one asks why the federal government’s Build America Bonds program was not enough to start projects. Those bonds created a federal subsidy that allowed states to borrow on taxable issues at a rate akin to their tax-free bonds. This must not have fixed the infrastructure issue. It is hard to even name one project of importance, necessity, or value built with the program. Why could states not rehabilitate and fix bridges? Why are there no specs or designs for replacement bridges, dams, and overpasses on file? It pushes a reader to wonder if those state departments and municipal divisions devoted to roads and highways are truly just paper shuffling, patronage jobs. The gigantic elephant in the room the Times dances around is the failure of the Obama stimulus.

With years to review the outcome, the Obama stimulus was a $750 billion handout to constituents with no idea on maintaining employment during the recession. Hundreds of billions went to unemployment, health care, and education. Health care and education were two of the sectors of the American economy that had grown significantly in the ’00s and weathered the recession far better than the productive sectors of the economy. Less than $100 billion was directed towards infrastructure projects. It is impossible to name a project on par with the infrastructure projects of the New Deal or Eisenhower’s transportation infrastructure overhaul of the 1950s. If there was anything of value, we would hear about it in the media weekly. The silence is damning.

This stimulus was all less than eighteen months after the media was priming the public for massive infrastructure investments after the Minnesota bridge collapse. There were billions if not trillions of dollars of infrastructure projects. This would have been an easy pitch to Americans in the spring of 2009. The money and will were there.

What was not there was the voter bloc. The construction industry devotes 60-75% of its campaign donations to the GOP, depending on election year. The Obama stimulus was comprised of handouts for the underclass and subsidies for education, health care, and alternative energy donors and voters. Solyndra was a clear case of American corruption. The firm donated to Obama’s 2008 campaign, received half a billion in federal loan guarantees, and then promptly went bankrupt in 2011. Solyndra helped with cash when Team Obama needed it. Same goes for the medical industry and the key to the Left: education. That is what matters.

This misallocation of potential spending and the making of decisions based on a voter coalition reveals the darker problem states and society faces. Federal government expenditures are at all time highs (by wide margins), yet they are not enough to fix this crumbling infrastructure crisis because the feds are pushing the money towards the Left’s needs. The states cannot pick up the tab because they, too, have social service expenditures that eat up their budgets, meaning there is little left over for broken roads.

Imperial war games and broken homes have taken priority. As the American empire finds new areas of concern, federal dollars for military industrial contractors are always found in budgets. Just this year, the Pentagon has watched as $1.5 billion in material and equipment has fallen into the hads of rebels in Yemen and Iraq. Half a billion dollars can be found to train a handful of Syrian rebels for a civil war no American wanted to enter. There is incredible value to healthy, happy families, but this was formerly handled and regulated by extended families and private institutions and clubs that enforced social norms and helped each other when difficulties arose. This broken- home-broken-world duel is a battle that the Left wins often by using guilt to appeal to sentiment and the heart over hard lessons and the mind. Society and government are oriented to coddle the underclass and protect them from the consequences of their poor decisions, while the world crumbles around us all.

Perhaps this is how the West dies. A heroin-addicted single mom gets to hug her kid who is back from a CPS division that dutifully watched her kid, but she’s sitting on free furniture in a city that lies in ruins because of blowback from foreign meddling. The media will cheerfully announce that mother and son are reunited in the human interest bloc on the nightly news right after announcing the bridge collapse on I-95 that killed thirty.

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  1. Random Dude on the Internet December 6, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    It doesn’t help that public infrastructure just is not a passionate issue with the public. Everyone on both sides can agree that it is in poor shape but it doesn’t get voters mad enough to vote against people who reallocate funding towards more social spending. Conversely, social spending and foreign wars do get people to vote one way or the other at the polls.

    The left also has a good excuse as well: if a bridge collapses, they can just blame shoddy private construction practices as they cut corners and pocketed the remainder. It doesn’t matter if the bridge was built well, people will generally buy it because there’s been umpteen episodes of crime dramas where private contractors did terrible work so they could pocket the difference. The public will buy this quite easily: they have no idea how long a bridge is supposed to last, they just assume it could last longer than it does when it collapses.

  2. Roads are the most visible day-to-day infrastructure issue. But you briefly mentioned water, which is going to be a major “hidden” issue in the near future.

    In most older communities (say, those built up 1960 and before), water mains date from the 1960s at the earliest. They are patched and patched and patched until they can’t be patched anymore. They are at or past the end of a 40-year lifespan. Most utilities lose anywhere from 10-15% of treated water through the system to leakage every month.

    But it’s very expensive to run new water mains, and few public utilities have had the competence and foresight to maintain water rates adequate to anticipate replacement costs of aged infrastructure.

    1. Now see, sometimes you learn from comments. Thanks, man.

    2. WRT roads: Do what the third world does, buy Toyota trucks and E-rated tires. Even has the roads crumble, your personal transportation remains viable.

  3. Of course, on the other hand, we live in an age where technologies that allow one to move “off the grid” are improving rapidly.

    Anyone with a minimum of technical competence and minimal financial resources can set up an independent / hybrid infrastructure system (i.e., hooked to the grid but able to operate independently for long stretches of time).

    Granted, this is the third-world compound system we’re lamenting, but our off-grid-third-world-compound-system-technology is still a lot better than Africa’s.

  4. You’re overlooking flat corruption.

    How much of that money flat disappears in DC or to cronies?

    The issue is bad enough that Congress is raiding the Fed for $19 Billion.

    As for the Dems and for that matter DC – and it always governs Dem – they’re committed to destroying the country not rebuilding it.

  5. According to Christina Hoff Sommers, early drafts of the Stimulus bill were much heavier on infrastructure, but feminists complained that most of the people hired for this work would be “burly men”:

  6. “Hello, I am a local official. We need to replace this bridge. Our engineer says we can replace this bridge for X dollars, and we’ve saved up X dollars. Can we get our bridge permit please?”

    “Sure thing. Have you done your environmental impact study?”

    “No. This bridge has been in place since 1936, what could change?”

    “Any change in footprint will require updated study. That will be X + $25,000 in consulting fees. Have you completed your cultural resources section 106 review?”

    “No. It’s a bridge in the woods. We just want to replace it.”

    “Well, you see that 1936 bridge has historical significance, and we noticed an old foundation nearby. That will be X + $25,000 + another $15,000 for cultural resources review.”


    “Well, hold on. What did the consultants say? Surely you’ll have to mitigate damage to the environment and compensate our cultural heritage for the loss of the bridge. That will be $50,000 total in time an effort. Let’s call it a donation to an environmental organization and a nonprofit dedicated to country bridges of the 1930s.”

    “This is pure fucking extortion.”

    “As long as you’ve purchased extra right-of-way for the equipment during construction, we’re almost done. We’ve got a few local holdouts. Let’s assume another $30,000 in right-of-way purchase and legal fees.”


    “Ok, so I see you’re in Rural County, Midwest. State statute needs at least 3 bids for a job of this size.”

    “There are only two paving crews anywhere near us.”

    “That’s a shame. I believe they have a two-year wait-list on bridges as well. You’ll still need a third bid. Can I recommend Low Bid Bridge Co.?”

    “Low Bid Bridge Co. is staffed entirely by illegal immigrants and roughnecks who failed drug tests at the two other paving companies.”

    “Yes, but they can probably fit you in this summer. Also, they have minority ownership, so that will give you a few more application points. And if you’re worried about quality, might I suggest a list of minority-owned engineering and construction management firms which you can pay to watch the project and make sure everything goes according to plan?”

    “Fine. Forget it. We’ll just keep dumping hot-mix asphalt on top of the damn thing until it dams the creek.”

    “Ok. No permit needed for that. You rednecks drive too much anyway, you know?”

    “Fuck you.”

    “If you decide to change your mind and replace the bridge, we can give you a million dollars to add a bike lane.”

    1. Well Played. I was on an Airport Commision in a small town. Your observations were dead on. I gave up after a while realizing that our system is pretty much hopeless in its present form.

  7. I noticed the deterioration in the roads where I live within the last 10 years. I’m starting to think, “so this is what the Rhodesia–>Zimbabwe transition felt like.”

    Things are unwinding to a less complex level. Even when we know exactly what it will take to fix things, we just can’t do it, due to lack of will and resources. I reviewed Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies” here. I recommend it highly.

    1. Related is The Archdruid’s ( ongoing conversation on catabolic collapse.

      The guy’s a bit kooky on a whole lot of stuff, but he does follow out his flawed premises well.

      Nick Land links to him on occasion.

    2. Having spent time in South Africa, I’d say it serves as a fantastic taste of what is to come in the west. Civilization doesn’t collapse overnight. It just gradually gets worse and worse. Street lights burn out and aren’t replaced. Rolling black-outs become a fact of life. Potholes become road hazards.

  8. Sorry, the Tainter review is here.

  9. Asset Management and maintenance is not a ‘sexy’ field but it’s becoming and increasingly vital one. Another problem is the vanishing of the Engineers and technicians with the needed skills and experience, many are at retirement age and will exit the industry in the next 5-10 years.

    Who will replace them?

  10. Everywhere I go in America it looks more like the Third World. The people are Third World ethnics, the infrastructure is dilapidated, and the government is dysfunctional.

    When I moved to China four months ago I expected to see poverty and dysfunction, but I’ve found it generally looks exactly like America. Socially, they seem far healthier. American exceptionalism is a myth. The media has indeed been hiding the decline.

    1. I disagree. China has bigger problems than the US, even now. Do not eat the local food unless fruits and vegetables are from site-inspected farms and delivered to your house/apartment. Of course you know you cannot drink tap water. Still able to do that in the US. We still have a free press, more or less. Sarcastic saying, In China you can talk about anything except politics. As with all non-European places, top-down corruption is a matter of course. I hope you are not an animal lover. I could go into more detail but you will learn. That said, western women (except lesbians) hate China, so it’s not all bad.

      1. The pollution of China is a growing pain of their industrial revolution. It’s England of the 19th century. They’ll grow out of it.

        1. Maybe the Chinese will perform a miracle and change in a fundamental way, but I doubt it.

          I’ve noticed that we in the West (especially Americans) believe acquisition of greater wealth, high-tech possessions and intelligence automatically confers moral and cultural advancement. But, there’s no evidence of this anywhere. The Chinese have become wealthy primarily by supplying land and cheap labor to Western companies. They did not build from the ground up like the Japanese. And even the Japanese lost confidence when everyone was expecting them to take over the world in the late 80s.

  11. The debt is the pressing issue.
    Much of local and city debt and liabilities are the creation of Civic employees bloated pension obligations. Its actually bankrupting larger cities now as seen in Illinois.

    Local infrastructure could have been maintained if not for this.

    In the end , the only resolution will be a Debt for Equity swap ala Martin Armstrong

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