Sunday, November 19, 2017

America the Beautiful... Infrastructure 🚃

In all of 241 years, the United States of America, has risen to become the richest country and greatest power, ever.  The equity and assets built since the industrial revolution and furthermore, since WW2, have shaped this country into a leader and innovator.

The USA, where any man or woman can persevere to become whatever they want- "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"; there are no caste systems, and everyone is guaranteed these "unalienable rights", as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence. With it's capitalist economy (and safety nets), independent states/republics and freedoms, it's no wonder that  millions (billions?) of people from all over the world want to live here.

That being said... The United States aren't without their problems and perils. The financial position of the USA is eroding, in part, due to developing nations increasing their wealth and adding to the global economy.  Although the wealth of the USA is growing, in terms of GDP- gross domestic product, it's at a slower rate than developing nations. Coupled with slower growth are increased liabilities or debt.

As far as money, debt and liabilities are concerned, you could point to countless inefficiencies and WASTE along the Federal, state and local governments, that contribute to our fiscal situation. Most of the time, when it comes to sorting out the problems, it all comes back to $$$.  Where are the tax dollars going? Well,  ~ 60% of the Federal budget goes to maintain social security, medicare/medicaid, safety net programs.  Spending is always on the lawmakers lips and government budgets seem to be a daily headline.  Whether it be funding for a new public high school, resurfacing for a major highway, military, social security, medicare, etc...  Soaring healthcare costs/spending and social security depletion are always talked about, but little is done.

If the USA is so rich, why are many services and systems sub standard when compared to other industrialized countries? 

"All politics is local" - Tip O'Neill

Infrastructure: roads, bridges, railroads, utilities, airports and ports, are the veins and arteries (literally) are the transportation systems that keep our country alive.  Hundreds of millions of Americans depend on them everyday.  Maintaining these infrastructures relies on a a stream of funding from all different sources- taxes (federal, state, local) to tolls and ridership fees.

One key component of major metropolitan cities are their commuter rail or subway systems that ferry people in and out of economic centers. The largest of which, the New York City Subway system, fittingly, operates in the largest city in the USA.  Although the Subway is the largest in terms of size and ridership, the problems experienced by it are mirrored in other aging transit systems across the country- increased ridership, worsening service.

The impressive assessment of NYC Subway, by the NYTimes- How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York's Subways is a scathing report of waste and mismanagement.

Now, without going into all the details regarding the disrepair of the system, (one of the oldest and largest in the world), the first few paragraphs struck like a sword-
"Signal problems and car equipment failures occur twice as frequently as a decade ago, but hundreds of mechanic positions have been cut because there is not enough money to pay them — even though the average total compensation for subway managers has grown to nearly $300,000 a year."

"Daily ridership has nearly doubled in the past two decades to 5.7 million, but New York is the only major city in the world with fewer miles of track than it had during World War II. Efforts to add new lines have been hampered by generous agreements with labor unions and private contractors that have inflated construction costs to five times the international average."

Among all the news/noise Americans hear all day, everyday, about current events and the likes, the most subvert situation nobody has challenged effectively are the cost, salaries and compensation of public works projects, workers and their impact on the areas they serve.

Now how is it, that a manager for the MTA (metro transit authority) makes $300k???  the same amount,as a highly trained, licensed, and experienced shipping pilot (captain), who him/herself is unionized too....   Public works and "fare wage" rates have gone through the roof and it's about time somebody stepped up to the mic, assess the problems and hold those accountable. BRAVO New York Times #NYTIMES for a great piece on the nation's most critical transportation system, and it's fleecing by directors, unions, politicians, contractors, and the likes.