Sunday, July 27, 2014

The pathetic state of infrastructure in America

BY TED RALL

E
You can tell a lot about the state of a country by comparing the state of its public and private infrastructure.
Take a look — if you can sneak past the gated community guard shack and peek through the privets without getting tackled by a rented goon — at the homes of the wealthy.
Note the manicured lawns of the “one percenters,” fertilized the months recommended by experts depending on climactic zone, painstakingly controlled for weeds, irrigation calibrated by volume, on timers.
Check out the garden: lines of shrubs that run a hundred bucks each, red-dyed mulch hiding the dirty brown dirt and tamping down unwanted dandelions before they get a chance to sprout.
The driveway is flat, smooth, free of cracks. Stucco walls, if you live out West, are similarly crack-free; if you’re east of the Mississippi, bricks are framed by perfect pointing.
Every detail, from the brass numbers on the mailbox to the baseboards to the perfect absence of cobwebs in high ceiling corners, reflects thorough, routine, frequent maintenance and repairs by a retinue of professional service providers. Tasteful. New. Kept up.
Bear in mind: All this perfectly maintained stuff houses a single family. At most, we’re talking two parents, four kids and a nanny or two. Certainly fewer than 10 people.
Now look at our public infrastructure.
Drive on a public highway in any major city: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. It’s a disaster. Potholes so big you worry about breaking an axle. And you should. In New York State, for example, a recent study estimated that bad roads and bridges cost motorists $20.3 billion in repairs annually.

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