While our politicians debate whether torture is really torture, is affordable access to basic health care necessary for people who work for a living, is climate change important [if it exists] – the rest of the world is simply advancing national and regional infrastructure beyond anything in the richest nation in the world.
In Switzerland, the world’s longest rail tunnel — straight through the Alps — is about to open.
At 57 kilometres, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which will travel through the Alps between the northern portal of Erstfeld and Bodio in the south, will become the longest rail tunnel in the world once complete, stripping the title from Japan’s 53.85 kilometre Seikan Tunnel…
Italy now boasts Europe’s fastest high-speed train — capable of speeds up to 400 km/h (249 mph) — that will cut travel times between Rome and Milan — about the distance between Washington, D.C. and Providence — to two hours and some change…
Even as Americans are stuck traveling on the MegaBus, China has agreed to finance construction of a new high-speed line — through the formerly war-torn Balkan states — from Belgrade to Budapest — by 2017.
China has signed an agreement with the governments of Serbia, Hungary and Macedonia for the construction of a new high-speed railway between Belgrade and Budapest.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the railway would be complete within the next two years. Feasibility studies are expected to to be carried out by June next year and the project completed by June 2017.
The new 200km/h line will reduce travel times from eight to around two-and-a-half hours between the two capital cities…
Busiest train bridge in Western Hemisphere = 104 years old, carries up to 500 trains/day!
There are a lot of people in the United States right now who think the country is falling apart, and at least in one respect they’re correct. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out of date and the vast majority of our seaports are in danger of becoming obsolete. All the result of decades of neglect. None of this is really in dispute. Business leaders, labor unions, governors, mayors, congressmen and presidents have complained about a lack of funding for years, but aside from a one time cash infusion from the stimulus program, nothing much has changed. There is still no consensus on how to solve the problem or where to get the massive amounts of money needed to fix it, just another example of political paralysis in Washington.
Tens of millions of American cross over bridges every day without giving it much thought, unless they hit a pothole. But the infrastructure problem goes much deeper than pavement. It goes to crumbling concrete and corroded steel and the fact that nearly 70,000 bridges in America — one out of every nine — is now considered to be structurally deficient…
Pennsylvania is one of the worst states in country when it comes to the condition of its infrastructure, and Philadelphia isn’t any better off than Pittsburgh. Nine million people a day travel over 900 bridges classified as structurally deficient, some of them on a heavily traveled section of I-95…
Ed Rendell, former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania…says it’s a nation’s number one highway. Twenty-two miles of it goes through the city of Philadelphia. There are 15 structurally deficient bridges in that 22-mile stretch. And to fix them would cost seven billion dollars — to fix all the roads and the structurally deficient bridges in that 22-mile stretch…
It’s less a case of wanting to get something done, than coming up with the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to do it. There is no shortage of ideas from Democrats or Republicans who’ve suggested everything from raising the gas tax to funding infrastructure through corporate tax reform. But there is no consensus and not much political support for any of the alternatives as Andy Herrmann, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, told us last summer…
He said, you’re sitting there at these committee meetings; they seem to agree with you. Yes, we have to make investments in infrastructure. Yes, we have to do these things. But then they come around and say, “Well, where are we going to get the money?” And you sort of sit to yourself and say to yourself, “Well, we elected you to figure that out.”
RTFA for enough examples of crumbling infrastructure to scare a sensible human being into action. Now, we just need to figure out how to get our elected officials to exhibit as much sense. Sitting around worrying about how to raise the funds for repairs without offending any of their big money contributors ain’t going to get it done.
Voters…are returning to faith in cradle to grave welfare after eight years of center-right Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who cut income, wealth and corporate taxes. Sweden’s tax burden has fallen by four percentage points of GDP – now lower than France.
In the eyes of many Swedes, the welfare state withered. Sickness and unemployment benefits were cut. Private firms started to run tax-funded schools and hospitals. But a tipping point may have come as a September general election approaches – and many now point to a U-turn…
By any standards, Sweden is healthy. Its public debt is around 40 percent of GDP, half of Germany’s.
But Sweden has one of the world’s most generous welfare states – like subsidized child care with up to 480 days of parental leave per child. Its Nordic model depends on keeping to a strict national bookkeeping unusual in much of Europe…
At the same time as demands grow for more spending on schools and hospitals, Sweden’s public finances have worsened. The country may now be heading for years of rising tax burdens if it wants to keep its public finances in order.
Flush from income tax cuts, middle classes have also enjoyed cheap loans and a property boom. As wealth grew – with clusters of Michelin star restaurants in Stockholm – Sweden remained one of the few economies in Europe with the top AAA credit rating. It also has the fastest growing economic inequality of any OECD nation…
Patients who participated in a smoking-cessation program during hospitalization for mental illness were able to quit smoking and were less likely to be hospitalized again for their psychiatric conditions, according to a new study led by a Stanford University School of Medicine scientist.
The findings counter a longstanding assumption, held by many mental-health experts, that smoking serves as a useful tool in treating some psychiatric patients.
Smoking among such patients has been embedded in the culture for decades, with cigarettes used as part of a reward system. Indeed, clinicians sometimes smoke alongside patients as a way of creating a rapport with them, said Judith Prochaska, PhD, MPH…lead author of the study.
She said the study, done in collaboration with researchers at UC-San Francisco, is the first to examine the impact of a stop-smoking intervention in hospitalized adult psychiatric patients…
Because psychiatric patients aren’t encouraged to stop smoking, the group is among the country’s most prolific smokers and among those most likely to die of smoking-related ailments, Prochaska said. Nearly half of the cigarettes sold in the United States are to people with psychiatric or addictive disorders, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average life expectancy for people with severe mental illness is 25 years less than that of the general population, and their leading cause of death is chronic illness, mostly tobacco-related…
Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rates and quantitative easing policies, borrowing costs are near generational lows. The costs of funding the repair and renovation of America’s decaying infrastructure are as cheap as they have been since World War II.
But the era of cheap credit may be nearing its end. And thanks to a dysfunctional Washington, D.C., we are on the verge of missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…
The argument [in 2011] was that a major infrastructure repair program would create jobs, keep us competitive with China and improve the security of our ports, energy facilities and electrical grid. And as a fantastic bonus, borrowing costs for funding these repairs were at the lowest levels in a century. Imagine the least costly way to improve and repair our infrastructure imaginable, and that was what was available to us: the deal of the century.
All of the above remains true — except the bit about ultra-low rates. They have begun to move higher as markets anticipate the end of the Fed’s quantitative easing. The most widely held U.S. Treasury, the 10-year bond, was yielding about 2.6 percent late last week — a full percentage point higher than in early May. The 30-year bond, which we tend to think of as the cost of funding infrastructure that will last for decades, has risen almost as fast.
As a nation, we still have a window to take advantage of these historically low rates. However, that window is beginning to close, and we need to act sooner rather than later.
As D.C. dithers, the rest of the economy has already jumped at the chance to put this cheap credit to work. The corporate sector has taken advantage of low rates to refinance its debt. Today, publicly traded U.S. companies have the cleanest balance sheets seen in decades. It is in no small part a driver of the stock market rally that began in March 2009.
Households have also taken advantage of low rates. Families with a reasonable income and a half-decent credit rating should be refinancing their consumer debt, especially home mortgages. And the data show that many of them have been.
That leaves Uncle Sam, along with the states and municipalities, as the odd men out of the debt refinancing boom. Rather than waiting for bridges to collapse to do expensive emergency repairs, we should proactively be upgrading and improving the rest of our infrastructure. We should be refinancing whatever debt we can while rates are still low…
RTFA for a detailed consideration of all that could be accomplished if the Republican Party cared sufficiently for the best interests of their electorate to participate in bipartisan legislation. That party exists only in memory.
If we fail to take advantage of this once-in-a-century opportunity, future generations will look back at us with a mix of disgust and anger. They will wonder how we let such a golden opportunity slip by and will think of us as “the idiot generation.”
And you know what? They will be right.
As ever, Barry Ritholtz is my favorite Recovering Republican.
A sinkhole swallowed a car as it was traveling down a street in Toledo, Ohio, and the 60-year-old driver climbed out of the hole using a ladder supplied by rescue workers…
A water main break or heavy rains may have caused the sinkhole to open up under the street on Wednesday as the woman was driving down it, fire department Lieutenant Tom Kuhman said.
“She saw the car in front of her kind of almost go in but her car, being already in motion, was unable to avoid it,” he said…
The woman was unhurt and climbed out of the hole using a ladder, helped by a firefighter.
The biggest city here in New Mexico is Albuquerque. Part of how it grew was the railroad going west along the Mexican border. A big part has been the military and our government’s devotion to weapons of mass destruction. Between air force bases and national labs like Sandia and Los Alamos, taxpayer dollars dedicated to death and destruction put three squares a day on a lot of New Mexico tables. Very little of that goes to infrastructure for civilians.
Albuquerque has as many as three water main failures a week like this. You can time construction matching the growth of the city to wars. World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. When the water system was laid down and apparently targeting a 50-year-replacement cycle. Long past – and never done.
Yeah, another tale of infrastructure self-destructing around us and under us.
Der Spiegel published this graphic to point up concerns about the state of Germany’s infrastructure.
Look who’s last!
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
If you have spent much time traveling around the United States, you likely have noticed that our infrastructure looks a bit worn and tired and in need of some refreshing. If you spend much time traveling around the world, however, you will notice that our infrastructure is shockingly bad. So bad that it’s not an exaggeration to declare it a national disgrace, a global embarrassment and a massive security risk.
Not too long ago, the infrastructure of the United States was the envy of the world. We had an extensive interstate highway system, deep-water ports connected to a well-developed rail system and a new airport in every major city (and most minor ones). Electricity was accessible to the vast majority of the nation’s residents, as was Ma Bell’s telephone network.
That was then. In the ensuing decades, we have allowed the transportation grid to get old and out of shape. Our interstate highway system is in disrepair; our bridges are rusting away, with some collapsing now and then. The electrical grid is a patchwork of jury-rigged fixes, vulnerable to blackouts and foreign cyberattacks. The cell system of the United States is a laughingstock versus Asia’s or Europe’s coverage. There are very few things that are done better by government mandate than by the free market, but cell coverage is one of them. Broadband, almost as laughable as our cell coverage, is another…
Don’t take my word for it. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently issued a U.S. Infrastructure Report Card…that reviewed key civil engineering projects on their quality and state of repair. The society graded aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater.
Overall, America’s infrastructure GPA was a “D.” We earned our highest grade in solid waste — a C+ (insert your own infrastructure joke here).
To get to an “A” would require a five-year infrastructure investment of $2.2 trillion dollars. You can understand why recent proposals of $50 billion were so underwhelming. That is 10 percent of what is required to return the United States to a competitive level with the rest of the developed world. Even the emerging world outshines us in these areas.
A massive infrastructure program would have numerous benefits, not the least of which would be giving a boost to the economy when it could use one. The big advantage of infrastructure rebuilds is that they create a lasting effect by creating tools and platforms that the private sector can build upon. Consider the vast economic benefits we have enjoyed from the interstate highway system, DARPAnet and NASA, and you have a sense of what a massive infrastructure program can yield.
That’s the intro. Barry Ritholtz published this at his Washington Post blog October 22, 2011. Ain’t anything much changed. The longer Congressional Republicans keep saying “NO” – the higher the eventual price tag will be.
Barry Ritholtz is one of my favorite Recovering Republicans. He’s retained the essentials of traditional American conservatism including respect for science and mathematics – two qualities missing entirely from the spooky crap sloughed off as ideology by the Tea Party and craven rightwingers huddled inside the dimbulb country club still called the Republican Party.
Click through the link in my post and read the details. They still make sense and all they would provide is a rescue for the infrastructure going back to FDR and Eisenhower, jobs and training for millions of Americans.
Remember when the United States did projects like these? Instead of “democracy and freedom” flowing from the barrel of a gun?
I think we stopped building dams when we stopped building bridges.
Thanks, Barry Ritholtz
Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11 billion gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools…
The group, which drew on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, state protection agencies and water treatment plants, said most of the outflow during the storm, which hit the eastern US in October last year, was caused by storm surges, which overwhelmed sewage treatment plants. But power shutdowns – and heavy rain in Washington DC – also played a part. A third of the sewage was untreated.
The scientists said the report exposed yet another risk factor to America’s crumbling infrastructure, due to climate change.
New York City authorities have been working for years to reinforce the city’s subway system, which is vulnerable to flooding, and to shore up power stations, which are located along the coast. The scientists said that in the wake of Sandy, when storm surges raised waters more than 9ft above the high tide mark, it was time to look at waste-treatment plants.
“Our sewage infrastructure isn’t built to withstand such surges and we are putting our property, safety and lives at risk if we don’t adequately plan for these challenges,” said Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist and research manager for Climate Central, adding that almost all of the sewage had ended up in New Jersey and New York…
The estimated cost of repairs to New York and New Jersey’s sewage treatment plants could reach $4.7 billion. “In the long run, sea-level rise is going to force us to rework our infrastructure physically if we are going to keep it intact,” she said.
There isn’t any part of superstructure repair, maintenance or upgrades that Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in Congress care a rat’s ass about. They operate under the assumption that voters only care about dollars – like the money-grubbing thugs they’ve elected.