Government needs to focus on infrastructure

June 14, 2015
Jim Griffin

Jim Griffin

OPINION By JIM GRIFFIN

For decades now, money for infrastructure repairs and re-building and for a wide variety of public services has been steadily slashed and eroded.

The average American bridge is about 50 years old with many having already collapsed over the years. Meanwhile, the basic railroad system has seen its budget drastically cut. The results of that shallow and predatory theft are horrific accidents like oil tank car trains derailing all over the country and the Amtrak passenger train disaster just weeks ago in Philadelphia.

Everywhere, roads and highways crumble to dust. And where are private industry plans for saving our infrastructure? Isn’t the “private sector” supposed to be the savior over and above those horrid levels of government?

On top of all this, the U.S. Post Office, one of the most clearly called for entities created explicitly in the U.S. Constitution, with the obvious idea of public funding, was forced decades ago to be totally “self-sufficient” and self-funding, but is at the same time not allowed to do a variety of things that could help to salvage it. Then, to add insult to injury, Congress, in its infinite “wisdom”, mandated the Post Office to pay 75 years in advance on its pension obligations, an insane requirement found nowhere else in the public or private sectors.

This is an obvious and conscious attempt to bankrupt the Postal Service and to set it up for privatization. The whole idea that the Postal Service should no longer get public funding was based on a phony comparison with corporations like Fed Ex and UPS, the idea being that they get no public money and so it’s “unfair competition” that the U.S. Post Office should. The lie of that is exposed when we realize that companies like Fed EX and UPS do not do door to door, direct-by-hand mail delivery to every household in America six days a week.

Meanwhile, the Social Security Trust Fund has been raided continually by politicians in order to pay for various things, largely imperial wars of plunder and domination.

Some services are naturally social, public in nature, and of necessity must be subsidized with public money. They cannot be real public services and be privatized entities seeking profit at the same time because, generally, necessary public services are not readily profitable if they are to also be affordable and fully available to consumers.

The same is true for basic infrastructure. “How can we possibly afford it all”, will scream ignorant and Fox News oriented persons? How about fewer wars and tax cuts for billionaires? How about ending corporate welfare and “too big to fail” mindsets?

How about ending the corporate ownership of politicians and limitless cash in election campaigns? Just some thoughts. And you know what, stop stealing from the Social Security Trust Fund and replace all the money used for non-Social Security things over the decades — all of it. The Social Security fund “crisis” exists only because politicians are smarmy thieves.

Jim Griffin has lived in San Luis Obispo for seven years.


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36 Comments

  1. r0y says:

    The average American bridge is about 50 years old with many having already collapsed over the years.
    Many? That is more than a few, is it not? I do not recall much more than a handful that collapsed – trust me, it makes news when a bridge collapses. How many bridges are there in the U.S.A.? I really do not believe you when you say “many” have collapsed. In fact, checking this list of collapsed bridges shows only seven (7) bridges in the U.S. collapsing due to structural failure and/or deterioration. Seven in the last 50 years (going back to 1965). Most collapses were due to extreme weather (flooding), collisions (ships hitting them), or earthquakes. I was unable to find a list of ALL bridges, but I’m fairly certain that 7 out of whatever that number is, over 50 years, is not an impressive figure.

    Meanwhile, the basic railroad system has seen its budget drastically cut. The results of that shallow and predatory theft are horrific accidents like oil tank car trains derailing all over the country and the Amtrak passenger train disaster just weeks ago in Philadelphia.
    Apples and Oranges. The rail system is maintained quite well. Sure, we had an accident – most places do. How many trains run daily, and for how many years? Now count the number of accidents. Also, to bring in Philadelphia, PA’s accident as somehow due to “drastically” cut budgets is beyond a foolish leap. Trying to take a curve rated at 50mph while doing 106mph is just not safe, no matter what the budget is. FYI: take a look at this chart showing the Federal Railroad Administration’s budget over the last 25 years and show me where the “drastic cuts” are…

    As for the Post Office; well, a pro-big government (what else can a socialist be?) person decrying the government involvement in it (much to the Post Office’s demise) is rich irony. Rich.

    The mention of “imperial wars” is likely a closure for any sane person who made it that far through your piece. Imperial means empire. I think you are confusing sphere of influence with imperial and it looks foolish. We go to war in the middle east for oil. I wish it was more open and honest, and I likely agree with you on some points; however, I understand that oil moves the world. People may not like it, but that does not mean it is not true. Yes, we went into Iraq (both times) for oil, but more so on behalf of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. You want reasons to hate your own country (aka spitting in the plate you eat from), then look to why the United States military is at the beck-and-call of the House of Saud… we keep them secure, they keep us supplied with oil. Period. Until we realistically can do without oil, this will continue to be the case.

    Still, for a rant, it wasn’t bad, just terribly under-developed and not fleshed out with respect to quantities and ratios. Sorry, I’m a bit of a numbers guy and like to see figures before I am lied to.

    (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
    • Ted Slanders says:

      ROY,

      For some to realize that our older bridges are structurally unsound, and are getting worse as we speak, is for that naysayer to be on one when it collapses. One bridge in the last 50 years collapsing because of needed repair where citizens died, in one too many. Why are the Republicans against providing for infrastructure?

      Roy, what is your alternative to the known bridges that are decaying and present danger to the motorists?

      Relative to the Amtrak derailment, first understand “cause and effect” in why did the train enter that curve at a fast speed? Then, because of this fact, the effect was a derailment. Now, what could have prevented this tragedy and why did it happen?

      Rail experts contend that Amtrak budget cuts have caused delays to the installation of “positive train control” technology which can automatically slow or stop a train to prevent an accident when appropriate. The area of the derailment did not have this PTC installed because the moneys went elsewhere to keep the railroad running in behalf of the many commuters. To deny a connection between the accident and underfunding Amtrak is to deny reality!

      Roy, what would be your solution to installing the latest technology of PTC on Amtrak without the needed funding, and especially after the GOP just reduced Amtrak’s budget by $250,000,000? You want to talk about ironies? How about the same time as this Amtrak crash, the Republican leaders who balk at all requests for public investment, saying the nation is too “broke” to fund domestic priorities, but in turn say it’s only “fair” to approve a $269 billion giveaway to the hyper-wealthy! Roy, stop smiling.

      The US Post Office, being meddled with by big Republican government, should make you cry out in pain, does it not? What’s the GOP’s mantra? Isn’t it to get government out of businesses? Can you believe the GOP becoming what they’re allegedly against by imposing a 75 BILLION trust fund for the USPS’s future retirement? What is wrong with this picture?

      Roy, if you or your friends own a business, I would like to see your reaction and your friends by being told by the GOP that all of you have to start funding for your employees retirement accounts for 75 years starting NOW! Thank you Isa and the GOP!

      Barring the semantics, George W. Bush took us into two fraudulent wars where lies were the impetus of losing 4500+ of our armed service people, and countless innocent Iraqis as well, along with the ramifications of the aftermath of these senseless wars. George’s ignorance cost us to date 2.5 TRILLION dollars and counting. It matters not who voted for the war or not because the “buck stops at George W. Bushes desk!” This is barring the fact of a costly future because of George’s stupidity by opening up the Mid East to what it is today.

      I am going to save you from any biblical passage and verses that would be even more damaging to your statements, therefore, you can thank me later.

      Roy, since you’re a “numbers guy,” I hope you enjoyed the numbers that I gave you in my treatise above.

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
      • mbbizpro says:

        Ted, The person operating the train had to know that he was far exceeding speed recommendations. No amount of money fixes that. As far as bridges, you still make assumptions that the money is not present. We pay plenty of taxes on fuel, via income taxes and more. That money needs to be managed properly. By all means, please feel free to voluntarily increase the money that you pay to the IRS and the State of California to address these issues. Now, why should taxpayers support Amtrak further when they can’t seem to become self sufficient? If rail travel is worth having, sell it to private industry. If Amtrak can’t maintain safety at current revenue levels they should be out of business. You are complaining about the GOP doing the right thing and setting up a Trust Fund to fund obligations that a government agency has agreed to? Finally, as far as the “fraudulent wars” I suppose we could have allowed Al Queda to flourish in Afganistan after the 9/11 attacks. We would probably then be under Sharia Law. The mistake in Afganistan is the troop withdrawl. In addition, it has been proven repeatedly that there was WMD in Iraq. Only those that want to keep chanting about the “fraudulent” wars fail to acknowledge it.

        (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
        • Moderator says:

          No bridges named GOP, Al Queda, Afganistan, or 9/11.

          Stop chanting.

          (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
        • Ted Slanders says:

          mbbizpro,

          “Ted, The person operating the train had to know that he was far exceeding speed recommendations. No amount of money fixes that.”

          Whatever the cause of the train speeding beyond it’s authorized speed in the area in question, it could have been STOPPED by the aforementioned “positive train control” apparatus! The PTC is within the same vein as a warning system on an airliner that there is hazard approaching,

          Lest you forget, the federal government has appropriated $54 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to bail out the Highway Trust Fund which relates to almost 30 percent more than the total federal expenditure on Amtrak since 1971. Do you want to drive on semi paved roads, with holes in them? What’s the ramifications if no Amtrak? Tell that to the Eastern commuter corridor and commuter traffic on the West Coast. Do you want to eliminate the subsidies for Armed services child care after we fraudulent’y sent them to two insdious wars? There’re subsidies that have to be made in our society to keep it running.

          1,625 UN and US inspectors proves you wrong subsequent to spending two years searching 1,700 sites at a cost of more than $1billion dollars looking for alleged WMD’s. After attacking Iraq, it was embarrassing when we found NO WMD’s! If you want to call a couple of gas cans WMD’s to try and save your argument, then so be it.

          (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
      • r0y says:

        So, Ted, you agree that MANY bridges have collapsed due to age?

        Do you agree that the Federal Railroad Admin has had budget CUTS, even after seeing the actual numbers I linked to?

        Do you really think that finance had something to do with the train wreck in Philly?

        Yeah, King of the Red Herring and most useless comments ever: thanks, Ted. Off target and wasting everyone’s time (especially your own) for years now.

        (BTW: if you did address any of those in your post, sorry I missed it, I instinctively skip anything and everything by you… amazing you have that effect on me!)

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Sebastes says:

    The photo reminds me of a Doonesbury character.

    (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
    • r0y says:

      The opinion piece reminds me of a Doonesbury cartoon… or something trying to be clever but missing the mark.

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
  3. Jorge Estrada says:

    I can remember a quote from Supervisor David Blakely, ” If you want an increase in the level of Gov services, then you need to increase taxation.” This should work both ways except Gov decreases the level of services (publicly at budget time) to balance the budget. That is how the public looses services only to pay more later to get it back. The public does not get involved until it is to late by design. We need to create laws that protect paid for level of services so that our existing taxes only pay for infrastructure, basic administrative departments and very basic social services.

    (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  4. unlisted says:

    mbbizpro asks “Why should tax payers subsidize the postal service when it cannot attract enough profitable business to be solvent?”

    Because it’s in the Constitution? Should the army and navy be abolished because they aren’t profitable?

    (7) 19 Total Votes - 13 up - 6 down
    • whatsinaname says:

      The constitution has become outdated in this area. There have already been 27 amendments because of lack of clarity or outdated statements. The constitution was a great document in its time, but it is far from perfect. The argument that “it is in the constitution” is a desperate one at best.

      People don’t like change, but the system of delivery has changed and at some point the old system becomes useless. I’d like to see the postal service privatized. I’d like to get away from paying to have a person drive to every home in the country, everyday, to deliver mostly trash to a box-on-a-stick in front of every home. We’re going to laugh at this system someday.

      (-4) 4 Total Votes - 0 up - 4 down
  5. SLO_Johnny says:

    We try to increase infrastructure funding but the money goes to pay increased salaries and benefits for transportation workers and bureaucrats. It isn’t spent on roads and bridges.

    As for Social Security, it can only invest in government bonds. Those bonds are sold to finance deficit spending. The country would be in a permanent recession if the Social Security Trust Fund didn’t put that cash back into the economy.

    (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down

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