Man-made disasters can be far more devastating than those over which we have no control if we ignore warnings or apply the wrong solutions.
Better forecasting of hurricanes and tornadoes, for instance, saves lives and property that would have been lost in earlier times.
But what happens when civil engineering experts caution for years the infrastructure of the U.S. transportation system is failing and those warnings are not heeded?
That’s exactly what is happening in Washington, D.C., where the Republican-controlled Congress has forwarded a budget resolution that could cut federal funding on transportation projects (road, bridge and rail improvements) by more than 20 percent.
|Without increasing investments in infrastructure, experts say, the U.S. will lose 900,000 more jobs, further deepening unemployment in the construction industry
A broad coalition of business, transportation advocacy organizations and labor unions has declared this week to be “Infrastructure Week,” a time to raise public awareness about the threat posed to public safety and our economy of underinvesting in critical infrastructure. They say bridge collapses and exploding pipelines in recent years underscore the dangers of an aging infrastructure in need of massive repair.
The coalition includes the AARP, the National Electrical Contractors Association, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
The groups are lobbying to bring the nation’s transportation networks up to 21st-centrury standards.
The Campaign for America’s Future says without increasing investment, the U.S. will lose nearly 900,000 more jobs, further deepening unemployment in the construction industry, already at close to 8 percent.
The U.S. spends less than 2 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure. China spends 9 percent; Europe averages 5 percent. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report rated the quality of U.S. roads as only the 16th best in the world.
The infrastructure coalition says that failing to raise needed investments until 2020 would increase transportation costs by $430 billion and reduce U.S. exports by $28 billion.
Campaign for America’s Future’s Isaiah Poole criticizes both the Obama administration’s and the Republicans’ plans to fund transportation projects.
Republicans have promoted lowering taxes on gasoline, despite the fact that increased fuel efficiencies have already lowered gas tax revenues that are used to fund transportation projects.
“The Obama administration,” says Poole, “is proposing to give multinational corporate tax avoiders a ‘holiday’ from paying taxes they rightfully owe [from profits stashed overseas], in order to get a few crumbs for building and maintaining the roads that they use to build their businesses.” This, he says, is “terrible policy.” To help fund transportation, corporations should pay the taxes they owe on what they earn in the U.S., just as the rest of Americans pay taxes on what they earn.
“It’s time to end the reckless political polarization that keeps unsafe bridges and roads from being rebuilt and keeps skilled construction workers off the job,” says International President Edwin D. Hill. That will only happen, says Hill, when Americans, whatever their political views, demand that leaders put the public’s safety and the nation’s competitiveness first in budget talks covering transportation.
The IBEW applauds the work of the infrastructure coalition to raise public awareness and hold elected leaders responsible, says Hill.
“I urge our local union members to call upon our elected leaders to make all necessary investments that our nation’s aging infrastructure demands. Politicians blowing smoke about reducing ‘wasteful government spending’ won’t fix what needs to be fixed or put unemployed construction workers back to work. When it comes to our infrastructure, it’s pay now or pay later.”