America's infrastructure is evaporating
American investment in infrastructure is not keeping up with the rest of the world and could prove to be an economy killer.
A massive power outage that affected millions of people in America’s southwest highlighted vulnerabilities in the nation’s power infrastructure. The outage caused reactors to shut down at the San Onofre nuclear power plant and cut power to wastewater pumps, sending tons of sewage into the Pacific Ocean. These are just the latest examples of a crumbling system.
"We haven’t had the kind of investment or the resources to put the investment into it to keep our infrastructure strong and safe," said Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker, during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.
In the past years Americans have seen their levees fail leading to massive flooding and cracked bridges buckling, not to mention constant water main breaks and costly traffic congestion. In its report card of America’s infrastructure, The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a D grade and estimated $2.2 trillion over five years was needed to bring that up to a B.
"This has got to stop. Our bridges can’t fall down. We can’t have collapsing infrastructure that kills people, that hurts people, leaves us unsafe. That’s just not the country we promised to be," said Richard Eskow, senior fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future.
Besides safety concerns, a crumbling infrastructure threatens to derail hopes of a significant economic recovery in the US, making it difficult to compete with the new powerhouses that see investing in infrastructure as a national priority and driving force of sustainable growth.
"Building a world class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower,” said President Barack Obama during an address to Congress. “And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build better airports and faster railroads, at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers can build them right here in America," Obama added.
The US only spends 2.4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on infrastructure. Europe spends more than twice that and China outpaces everyone at 9 percent.
"We’re being lapped by the rest of the world," said Damien Goodmon, a public transportation advocate in Los Angeles. “We’re no longer going to be number one. That’s reality,” Goodmon added.
Actually, the US is already far from the top. The World Economic Forum ranks America's infrastructure twenty-third in the world. Some blame a growing federal bureaucracy and a web of environmental regulations.
“There is no question it would take years to get over the various hurdles and hop scotches that these mega projects have to go through,” said Stefan Molymeaux, host of Free Domain Radio.
President Obama's proposal to significantly boost infrastructure spending could help create desperately needed jobs but with a gaping deficit and Washington politics in a gridlock, Americans may see this proposal grind to a screeching halt.