Pouring trillions into the black hole of war while our national infrastructure continues to decay

Pouring more and more trillions into the black hole of war must come to an end before the condition of America’s infrastructure becomes virtually irreversible.

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The more taxpayer dollars that are sucked into that black hole of war the more cracks appear in the foundation of America, its national infrastructure, at the center of almost everything that goes on in America; from the transportation of goods to people driving to work and a great deal in between.

This government’s ongoing obsession with war, together with the massive costs of the U.S, military empire are, in effect, contributing to this deterioration which is happening all across America; with the interstates, main highways, local roads, and the rail system. There are areas of substantial decay that we can’t really see, such as bridges, dams, waterways, sewer systems and the electrical grid.

There is no question but that the repair and rebuilding of the infrastructure will generate excellent returns on investment for America. It will create millions of new jobs calling for a wide variety of skills and experience such as heavy equipment operators, engineers, electricians, steel workers and a host of others. This would be a tremendous shot in the arm for our economy, just what this nation needs.

In contrast, the proliferation of war has a reverse effect; it not only wastes a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars on acts of destruction, but it creates untold thousands of new enemies that will find ways to retaliate; that’s exactly what the war on terror is doing.

The infrastructure, the physical heart of America, is in this state of disrepair because the funds that would even bring it up to normally accepted standards are not being appropriated. Members of Congress have no hesitation when it comes to rubber stamping funds for the military but when it comes to this important domestic need they give it no great priority.

Experts on this matter indicate that bring it up to normal standards will take $1 trillion; and to go further and bring it in line with the high levels present in a good number of countries in Europe proper, Scandinavia and Japan, it would take another trillion.

In collecting the necessary statistics for this article, I came across an excellent book, Third World America, by Ariana Huffington. Here are some very interesting and also very troubling stats relating to this deterioration as brought out in this book.

  • The U.S. invests only 2.4% of its gross domestic product on infrastructure; in Europe it’s 5% and in China it’s 9/%. Why the great difference? Because these other countries don’t waste theirs on war.
  • According to the EPA, on average, an important water line breaks in this country every two minutes; such a break occurs almost every day in Washington, D.C. Also, waste water treatment plants are rapidly deteriorating across America.
  • 25% of this country’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Bridges which have an average life span of 50 years are now averaging 43 years.
  • Broadband, fast becoming one of the most important foundations of our economy, dropped from a ranking of 4th in the world in 2001, to 15th in 2009. Worse yet, it is not being upgraded and expanded to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for this important service.
  • School buildings are a critically important part of our national infrastructure; the bad news is that it is estimated that it will take some $322 billion to bring them into a state of good repair.

So that’s a snapshot of the condition of this infrastructure. Alarms should be sounding across America over this situation. But would this Congress even hear them since its members are so very busy addressing the needs of the masters of Corporatism and the Military-Industrial Complex.

We have a government filled with politicians who can’t seem to grasp this fact of life. When a bridge collapses, when a primary waterway becomes impassable, when large portions of key highways and interstates are shut down because of massive deterioration, the costs of rebuilding, just getting them back to basic operations is far more costly than if they had received basic maintenance and repair.

How in the world can this government fail to address this massive problem? In this world rankings report on infrastructure the U.S. is ranked #11. For a country which its politicians like to refer to it as great and exceptional how can that be?

More bridge collapses like the one in Minneapolis, MN will, without any doubt, occur in the future. That 8-lane steel bridge that carries Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River, involving traffic of 140,000 vehicles daily, suddenly collapsed on August 1, 2007. Thirteen people lost their lives and 145 were injured. This government should consider this to be a bad omen for the future.

Don’t even think about seeing bullet trains going between our cities with speeds up to 230 mph such as they have in some countries in Europe, Japan and China. In the U.S. it looks like we will have the slow as a mule, antiquated Amtrak rail system around for a long time and it will continue on the road to obsolescence.

Our government has spent over $3 trillion taxpayer dollars on the illegal, totally misguided wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and about $2 trillion more on military actions in various other parts of the Middle East over several decades. Just think of what just a portion of that total could have been done for America’s domestic needs, including the infrastructure.

One would think that the government, after being directly involved in the violence and suffering during World War II, would have done everything in its power to stay out of military conflicts unless there were no other good options; but it did not. Not long after that world war the U.S. military entered into the middle of the civil war that erupted in Korea.

In the decades that followed the military was involved in 18 more wars/military conflicts of various proportions. Question: which of these wars could be said to have been totally necessary and fully justifiable? Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and those military actions currently being conducted in Syria, Somalia and Yemen. And the answer is: none of them.

Is there a solution to this dilemma in which massive funding for the military continues to restrict the funding for the infrastructure? You bet there is and It is not that difficult of a task; that is, if the members of this Congress can finally get their political heads on straight.

The U.S. military budget for fiscal year 2018, which covers the period October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018, is $824.6 billion. When you take that base budget and add in all the other associated costs such as military pensions, the VA healthcare system, and various other associated areas that amount skyrockets to well over $1 trillion. And, by the way, the costs of war itself are not budgeted.

It’s way past time that this budget has appropriate funds reallocated to the infrastructure rebuilding program. If this is not done, and very soon, we will see massive problems with our transportation system, our commerce will be adversely affected and our economy will absorb a giant blow.

How much should be transferred from the military to infrastructure repair? Well, that’s for Congress to determine, keeping in mind that we must maintain a strong military but not one that needs to rule the entire world.

We need to better balance our priorities. Pouring more and more trillions into the black hole of war must come to an end before the condition of America’s infrastructure becomes virtually irreversible. If we get to that point then the meaning behind the title of the book, Third World America, will become a reality.

The massive military budget should be considered to be the best option for obtaining this funding. While there would, without a doubt, be great opposition to reallocating a portion of it to an infrastructure program, it’s time for Congress to just do what is right for this country, stop the vacillating and get moving.

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Michael Payne
Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense industry, and the massive control that Corporate America holds over this government and our election process; all which are leading this nation down the road to eventual financial ruin if the conditions are not reversed. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and a U.S. Army veteran.

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