You Can't Have a Functioning Democracy Without High Quality Infrastructure

We can’t have a strong country without strong infrastructure.

Earlier this month, Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their 8-month-old son Hudson were killed after debris from a highway overpass in Bonney Lake, Washington fell onto their pickup truck as they were driving through.

According to authorities, a large piece of concrete barrier fell from the overpass onto the Ellis’ truck. The overpass was undergoing a construction project at the time. The tragic deaths of Josh, Vanessa and Hudson Ellis are yet another reminder that America’s infrastructure is literally crumbling.

Take our nation’s bridges and tunnels for example.

Right now, there are over 600,000 bridges in America that have been labeled as “structurally deficient.” In 2007, a bridge collapse on I-35 in Minneapolis killed 13 people and injured 145 others.

In 2013, a bridge on I-5 in Washington State collapsed, sending 3 people plunging into a river. Luckily, they were all rescued. And, in 2006, a section of concrete ceiling panels in Boston’s Fort Point Channel Tunnel fell on a car, killing a passenger in that car and severely injuring the driver.

But it’s not just our bridges and tunnels that are in disrepair. All across America, roads are buckling, electrical grids are failing, and transport systems are aging.

The richest country in the world is looking more and more like a developing nation each day.

The situation is so bad that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a D+ overall rating on its 2013 infrastructure report card.

The ASCE gave our bridges a C+, our roads a D, our transit systems a D, our energy infrastructure a D, our dams a D and the list goes on.

The ASCE also said that Washington needs to spend AT LEAST $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to get our nation’s infrastructure back on track.

Unfortunately, that’s a lot easier said than done these days. Ever since Reagan came to Washington and blew up federal funding for infrastructure projects, our country hasn’t been the same. It’s literally been crumbling.

Republican lawmakers have refused over and over again to fund the infrastructure programs that America desperately needs. And, since President Obama took office, it’s gotten even worse.

Infrastructure spending has plummeted since President Obama took office and the Republicans began their relentless obstruction efforts. Republicans would rather put the lives of Americans at risk and see our country literally crumble to the ground than give President Obama any sort of achievement.

But what Republicans don’t realize is that investing in our nation’s infrastructure could do wonders for our economy.

A report by Standard & Poor’s estimates that spending $1.3 billion in a year would create 29,000 jobs, add $2 billion to economic growth, and reduce the deficit by $200 million.

Without that kind of investment, we risk losing out on nearly $1 trillion in business sales, 3.5 million new jobs and more than $3.1 trillion in GDP. That’s because, despite what Republicans might tell you, you can’t have a strong economy, a strong country, or even a strong democracy without a strong national infrastructure. It’s just not possible.

Nobody wants to live in a community that has bad infrastructure. People want good transport systems, roads that aren’t falling apart, and electrical grids that don’t fail every other day during the summer.

Similarly, businesses want strong infrastructure too. Strong infrastructure means that businesses can attract and keep employees more easily. And, strong infrastructure also means that it’s easier for communities, cities and states to attract new businesses.

That’s why cities that have invested heavily in infrastructure like Portland, Oregon and Seattle are thriving, while cities out in the Midwest with weaker infrastructure systems are hurting.

We’ve ignored our nation’s infrastructure for far too long, and now we’re paying the price, both economically and with people’s lives. We shouldn’t have to worry about being crushed by concrete every time we drive through a tunnel or under a highway overpass. And we shouldn’t have to worry about plunging into a river every time we drive over a bridge.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a plan to start the process of bringing our nation’s infrastructure up-to-date. The president’s plan would spend $478 billion over six years to rebuild our roads, bridges, highways, and transit systems.

So far, Republicans have scoffed at that plan, but it’s time for that to change.

It’s time for our lawmakers to stop play politics, and start rebuilding our nation. Our country, our economy, our democracy and our lives depend on it.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 5 weeks ago

I wish someone would compute the impact on our infrastructure just from the bills that the repugs filibustered in 2009. When one realizes the only reason the repugs would not vote for cloture was that it would make Obama look good, how can one measure the amount of anger in my soul. One could easily correlate the deaths by infrastructure that Thom describes to racism.

LysanderSpooner's picture
LysanderSpooner 8 years 5 weeks ago

End road socialism.

upperrnaz12348's picture
upperrnaz12348 8 years 5 weeks ago

Unless I am wrong it was a Republican president that happened to the Cheif of Staff of the US Army that understand any future, military or peace time depended on an efficient infrastructure. It cost money, and and he wasn't affraid of "soaking the rich". The people that were paying out the better part of the taxes had no problem, most of them because it was the very infrastructure they were funding that enabled them to keep them a level of profitablity, and allowed them to expand.

Can't say what this generation of captitalists, of you want to call them that, are thinking. Once upon a time we called them Captains of Industry, now it's hard to say what they do, or how they earn their money, or perhaps the problem is that "un-earn" their money.

liz banker 8 years 5 weeks ago

An excellent point made in Thom's radio broadcast earlier today, 4-21-2015. We need BIG Government in order to fight the malfeasance of BIG Business: mal·fea·sance \ˌmal-ˈfē-zən(t)s\. law : illegal or dishonest activity especially by a public official or a corporation.

liz banker 8 years 5 weeks ago

Barely a week out, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton continues to be dogged by her lack of credibility, and not being trustworthy. Again, reviewing her presidential video announcement, I would more accurately say her voice, tone, and delivery suggests that Hillary Clinton is more devoid of principle and authenticity: she really doesn’t mean what she says about Income Inequality, Hedge Managers and CEO’s, to say little to nothing of TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement), XL Pipeline, TBTF Goldman Sachs's of the world.

Lauren Steiner exposes Hillary’s and the (corporate) Democratic Party’s flawed thinking:: . A few highlighted arguments below:

“Next, [Paul] Krugman said any Democrat would vote to retain the tax hikes on the rich. Well, what do middle class Americans care about retaining those insufficiently low tax hikes on the rich if this trade agreement Obama is pushing, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will outsource millions more high-paying American jobs and reduce the wages of 90% of American workers. As Secretary of State, Hillary pushed this agreement as part of the pivot to Asia, and she has refused to state an opinion about it since.""

Why should we believe that Hillary, who has been getting $200,000 speaking fees from these very same banks, $400,000 from Goldman Sachs in one six-day period alone, would put the screws to the banks? Of course, now in Iowa she is finally talking about the injustice of CEOs making 300 times what the average worker makes. But what in her past leads us to believe she would do something about this?"

"In fact, she will most probably hire the very same people, the Larry Summers, Tim Geithners and Robert Rubins of the world, whose financial deregulation caused the 2008 economic collapse in the first place. Her supporters from Big Finance are reacting with a collective “meh”. They know she has to say these things to get the support of the base. They know she won’t betray her big contributors, who are mostly big banks.”

liz banker 8 years 5 weeks ago


We do need a BIG Government in order to fight the malfeasance (and power) of BIG Business.....

SaxnFlutman's picture
SaxnFlutman 8 years 5 weeks ago

While of course it's the GOP most blatantly obstructing any & everything the president or the Dems have put forward, I still say both he & his party's lawmakers have seriously dropped the ball. If it weren't only Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren out there on their own, but a united front by Democratic politicians from the White House to the state houses, all putting out the word, primarily about infrastructure, but also the grip corporations & the wealthy have on our nation, we might actually get people riled up, and their focus in the right direction.

Instead, they are without a voice, cat's got their tongues, spinelessness is rampant. How ANY of the GOP governors who are blocking millions of their own constituents from access to healthcare, by refusing federal money to expand Medicaid, got re-elected, is a testament to how grossly ineffective & useless most of the Democrats in office are! These governors should have been reviled as the "Death Panels" the GOP warned us we'd find, should the ACA pass!

Hell, these guys are "Death Panels of One", causing their consituents financial duress, poorer health, and in many cases, literally their lives, directly due to their partisan gamesmanship!

Yet here in Georgia, even Jimmy Carter's grandson didn't make it an issue, and across the country these heartless excuses for human beings were re-hired for another term! In Georgia, any single, working person making between $2,800 & about $13,000 a year is simply S.O.L., too much income for Medicaid, not enough for an exchange policy (which also makes zero sense, why allow this gap to exist?)...

I truly cannnot believe this can go on in America and people are not screaming from the rooftops.... we've become a nation of, you're right Thom, "SUCKERS", and distracted ones at that, unable to lift their eyes off their iPhones for anything...... SMDH.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 8 years 5 weeks ago

Thom's link does not work. Here is the link that lists the areas of concern.

The infrastructure they graded was the following. They even have a breakdown by state so one can see how their state is doing.

The infrastructure areas are:

Drinking water
Hazardous Waste
Inland Waterways
Public Parks and Recreation
Solid Waste
Waste Water

I am a registered civil engineer in two states, California and New Mexico. I am now retired and a life member of ASCE and am seriously disturbed by our lack of progress in updating our entire infrastructure because we are afraid to tax the rich. Meanwhile the rich have stashed trillions of dollars of OUR money overseas. This money would go a long way to repair and update our infrastructure and create JOBS.

The rest of the developed world is making us look sick. I saw a picture of a Chinese train station awhile back and there must have been a dozen high speed bullet trains in the station. I was astounded and sad that we are so damn backward.

I read yesterday that a Japanese train just broke the speed record. It is a magnetic levitation train.

We are moving backwards instead of forward spending all of our infrastructure money repairing what we have destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan and letting the rich off from paying their fair share for the common good.

We must wake up or we will not survive the 21st century intact.

The comment by one of your posters to "end the socialism" is stupid. To be truthful, we are now officially a fascist nation. Google: "The Dangers of American Fascism, by Henry A. Wallace, 1946". Even Adolf Hitler believed in infrastructure. He built the Autobahn on which President Eisenhower modeled our federal highway system. Before WWII, he recognized the importance of a highway infrastructure. He took a military convoy across America in the 1920's and was very disappointed in the condition of our roads or the lack thereof. Commerce is the key word here. Don't you think it strange that the republicans were in charge during the 1920's and into the 1930's bringing us the Great Republican Depression of 1929. We are heading there again thanks to Saint Raygun trickle down economics. 2008 was a preview of what's to come, especially if an 'R' steals the next election. I glad that I am almost 80 and will not be here to see the collapse of America. It will make 1929 look like a picnic in the park. My parents struggled through the depression being married in 1930. My dad drilled holes in acorns for the WPA.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 5 weeks ago

The state of a nation's infrastructure is a measure of its democracy and democraticness. If the people are truly in charge then services that are important to the people are faithfully, reliably and unwaveringly performed and fulfilled. They are of a high priority. The physical infrastructure is typically first class and impeccable in such societies.
In societies where some small, corrupt clique or cabal is in charge the infrastructure is neglected,low rate, crumbling and used in money making schemes for members of that clique or cabal where they begin to extort money from the people for use of that infrastructure in the form of bribes, kickbacks, various tolls and "privatizations".
Thus the United States differs ever less from Somalia.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 5 weeks ago

Liz Banker, a government by any other name smells the same. If corporations control and govern society then they are effectively the government.
"Libertarians" are not against government they are against democracy. When they complain about and try to remove government they are only seeking to remove that government that is owned by all of us. They seek to eliminate the "public goods and services" and the democratic governmental structures that serve the people, are owned by and are accountable to the people. They want government to be the personal property of some rich asshole or small clique of rich assholes.
When governmental functions are reduced to the enforcement of private property rights then those with the most property are given complete advantage and we return to feudalism. The will of the propertied then has the force of government behind it and there is nothing to stop it from becoming absolute.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 5 weeks ago


My best hope for Hillary is that she is also listening to Liz W. This is according to Ms Warren, not Hillary.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 5 weeks ago

Hillary will say/do anything to get elected and advance her personal ambitions. Don't try to "move her to the left" because with her, as with most politicians - and particularly those of her ilk - you will be only moving her rhetoric to the left. Her intentions and ambitions will remain unchanged. Her husband and Obama ran as lefties but governed as moderate Republicans. It's all flim flam with those DLC types.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 5 weeks ago

Lydannder Spooner, socialiism is the beginning - of a brave, new world of bright promise for all mankind!

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 5 weeks ago

SaxnFlutman -- I think SCROTUS has their tongue, not a cat. Open your mouth and you are no longer in office. I think Eliot Spitzer was our greatest hope against wall st. Look what the billionaires did to him.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 5 weeks ago

Mark J S -- I think you should always call it democratic socialism.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 5 weeks ago

Any genuine socialism is democratic - and any genuine democracy is socialist. What socialists call "bourgeois democracy" - or capitalist "democracy" that glosses over and ignores the differences in political power between the different socioeconomic classes falls far short of genuine democracy. It is what it's called, bourgeois democracy, i.e., democracy for the bourgeoisie and tyranny for everybody else.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 5 weeks ago

The supposedly transiently temporary Leninist dictatorships are usually well intentioned but seem hopelessly doomed to fail as socialism.
Cuba is probably the last real such - but don't count 'em out yet.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 5 weeks ago

Hey Thom, we don't have a functioning democracy or even a pretense of democracy anymore. We don't invest in America infrastructure because there is no need for it. We invest in Southeast Asia infrastructure and development. American Business, which function as our de facto government, hates American citizens for their freedoms, even more than the Taliban hates our freedom. So, why invest government dollar, the public's money, into America when business interests are overseas?

dianhow 8 years 5 weeks ago

GOP pledged in Jan 2009 to do whatever it took to crush Obama - make him fail. They have kept that promise and then some. GOP policies hurt our country , our economy, old folks in nursing homes. .waiting to die. GOP GOV 's across the US have made deep cuts in funding the disabled, mentally, ill, public education, care for foster kids, school lunches. Powerful Corps Are KINGS. Millions of peope vote against their families best interest GO figure. Ignorance is NOT Bliss Its very dangerous.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 5 weeks ago

As long as Congress supports the wishes of their wealthy private owners that are moving this country toward a Third World sweatshop economy, then Congress must feel that any infrastructure spending would be a futile effort as the infrastructure should reflect that eventuality ! Congressman Alan Grayson made some disturbing comments on Democracy Now this week regarding a similar trend tied to the pending Fast Track Legislation that will hasten the passage of the secret TPP trade legislation, an action that Congressman Grayson said, "if passed would leave average Americans with one option, to kiss their country goodbye" !

oneworldatpeace's picture
oneworldatpeace 8 years 5 weeks ago

Well we have to protect all those TAX CUTS Reagan started and that means people will just have to die,


oneworldatpeace's picture
oneworldatpeace 8 years 5 weeks ago

You're correct, we have to protect those tax cuts and so people will just have to die. I'm not being satirical. I think decisions have been made to abandon the American People for other markets where they don't have pesky rules and regulations and can use starving workers for nothing. That's what the TPP is all about! I'm 67 so I'll be around a little longer but I wonder how long it will take people to understand the ramifications of a Wall Street World and International Banksters profiting from desparation and calamity. Maybe it will be a Geezer that strikes back at the machines of our ruin.

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