Thursday, August 07, 2014

Same Old Song and Dance

Last week in Los Angeles, a 100-year old water pipe broke, and spilled more than 20 million gallons of water. That’s a day’s worth of water for about 100,000 people. According to a story at, due to our aging water infrastructure, ancient pipes leak 7 billion gallons of treated drinking water every day. Most of our water infrastructure was put into place during the early part of the 20th century. It’s now languishing in disrepair because we have other national and state spending priorities. We aren’t willing to invest in our country, because it would mean spending less on offense, and it would mean creating jobs, and that can’t happen while the Black Guy is in the White House. All that dripping water is something to chew on as we await the coming water wars.

It is an election year, and around New Hampshire, politicians are gearing up for the primary on September 9. The signs are coming out, and so are the usual talking points. “Cut spending!” “No New Taxes!” That’s been the GOP mantra since I moved to NH thirty years ago. It’s been successful because it is easily absorbed and repeated by low information/low intellect voters. As a plan for running a state, it has not been successful – any more than it would be a successful business plan. A business that doesn’t invest in itself will eventually go under. We’re seeing what becomes of a state that doesn’t invest in itself – all the states around us are bouncing back from the meltdown of the economy in 2008. Our neighbor states invested in education and infrastructure. They began planning for the future. NH remains obstinately stuck in the past. 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, over half of NH’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. NH reports the need to invest $847 million in drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. We need to invest $1.2 billion in wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. We all know that there are hundreds of red listed bridges that need fixing, and that our state park system has unmet needs of about $100 million because we don’t fund the park system properly.

With all of that in mind, I looked at the websites of our top gubernatorial candidates. Andrew Hemingway wants to offer tax cut incentives to bring new businesses here. He wants to create a business friendly atmosphere, which in Hemingway speak means “a regulatory and tax structure that is inviting to small and large businesses.” Nowhere in the “Solutions First” section of his website is infrastructure even mentioned. We’ve heard all of this before.

Walter Havenstein, the Maryland resident who wants to be our governor, has a snappy graphic and a 3-part plan on his website. It seems that our problem is business taxes and high electric costs. Havenstein blames the high electric costs on REGGI. Perhaps it is unfair to expect a recent emigre to be familiar with what the Seabrook nuclear plant did to our energy costs, and how PSNH has managed itself over the years. He also adds the usual mantra of no income/no sales tax. No unions. Passing right to work will send a strong message to the whole country that we are open for business! We need qualified employees! The university system better shape up! We need to eliminate regulations and fees! And so on.

This is all in his plan for The Economic Transformation of NH.  If it sounds curiously familiar, it’s because it’s the same plan we’ve heard from every GOP candidate for the last 30 years. The word infrastructure is never mentioned in Havenstein’s 3 point plan. He does, however, pat himself on the back for his career at BAE Systems, a company that relies entirely on government contracts. Walt may be a stranger to NH, but he’s no stranger to feeding from the public trough.

Havenstein and Hemingway have both taken the Americans for Prosperity pledge. The Koch funded AFP is desperate to ensure that NH residents don’t have health insurance or roads and bridges. The more pledges a candidate signs, the less creativity or actual thought is required of them.

Governor Hassan acknowledges the need for modern, safe, transportation infrastructure on her campaign website, and touts her accomplishments in investing in business-backed plans for investing in road and bridge projects. She’s the only candidate who uses the word infrastructure on her campaign website.

None of the candidates mentioned telecommunications infrastructure at all. The idea that we can somehow continue to struggle to move into the 21st century without dramatically improved telecommunications infrastructure is befuddling.

A great deal of high volume whining goes on about the transportation fund. Many people seem to think that somewhere in the highway budget is buried treasure that’s just waiting to be properly spent. The Bartlett Center for Kochenomics insists that it’s the carve outs from the highway fund that are the problem. It is true that money from the highway fund goes to the Dept. of Safety, and sometimes to other departments. The trickle downers are aghast upon their fainting couches at the very thought! What they don’t ever acknowledge is this: If NH doesn’t raise enough revenue to run the state properly, then departments will continue to rob Peter to pay Paul. That’s how the NH budget has worked for as long as we can all remember.

Infrastructure investment isn’t a sexy subject. It does not inflame the passions of voters. Addressing NH’s infrastructure needs won’t be cheap. The longer we put it off, the more costly it becomes, and we’ve been putting it off for decades, because NO TAXES/CUT SPENDING. Guns get people wound up. Infrastructure bores people. Roads, bridges, and drinking water are all essential to our state’s economic future, and all we’re getting from our candidates are the same old non-solutions from the last 3 decades. Its no wonder the future looks bleak – we can’t seem to find candidates who have any interest in it.

© 2014 sbruce

Published in the August 8 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper. 


victoria said...

A masterful summary Susan. Notice that there are no comments to attempt to refute what you've put a tremendous amount of thought into. Will look forward to seeing whether the liberty folks have anything to say in response to you.

samiinh said...

Couldn't agree more. Excellent op-ed, Susan. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

100% on the nose again! Since Reagan I've heard nothing but the same repetitive meaningless whine from Republicans about taxes but nothing else of real substance. Nothing has ever changed but rather as a nation we have seriously declined. Maine has been addressing its serious aging water infrastructure problem for a few years now. For some bizarre reason, we cannot extricate ourselves from the cycle of blind stupidity. We are for decades now stuck with the same idiocy reflected by the right. Their self centered and uncreative "policies" if they can even be called that, have broken our nation. And this from the exact same party that screams "Patriotism" and condemns anyone as being unpatriotic if even a whiff of disagreement is uttered.

It is unpatriotic to allow a state and nation to wallow in such disrepair that we will decline to an unindustrialized state. It is unpatriotic to not consider the future by making repairs and fixing things RIGHT NOW. So many elected individuals are too busy feathering their own nests to care about the tree they live in.

Dstarr said...

Dunno about California, heard a lotta bad things about the place but I haven't been out there in years. Up here, north of the Notch, we relaid every water pipe in town three summers ago. Dug up Main St from end to end. Then we replaced a smallish highway bridge over the Gale River, and the next summer we replaced a bigger iron truss bridge over the Ammonoosuc River. And another Gale River bridge is scheduled for replacement next year. We rebuilt the local middle school and the high school from ground up four years ago. And the town fire station is being rebuilt, again from the ground up, right now. And we repaved I93 yet again. All and all, we been doing our bit keeping infrastructure in tip top shape up here. A lot better than they do in New York. If LA cannot keep their water pipes in repair, that's an LA problem, not an NH one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if we stopped spending all of our tax dollars on providing for non-citizens and citizens who expect the rest of us to provide for their every need, we would have something in the budget for infrastructure projects.

You Liberals just kill me: you just think the tax spigot is endless.

Anonymous said...

To the above comment, I must respectfully disagree. "Liberals" (a loose term at best, since in the US there is no such thing), most certainly don't believe in the gushing money spigot. Rather, we don't wish to see folks rotting under bridges, and the future resource (children) being squandered. There are always individuals in our world who for whatever reason cannot function the way we'd like them too. What do we allow to happen to them? Literally, throw them under bridges? Also, if the right wing wasn't so fanatical about abortion, there would be less population and economically this would be better. If the right cared as much about adults and children as they did for the unborn, clearly there would not be the problems there are. Higher population equates to more problems. The right believes in taking care of these issues in other countries where they can murder and bomb brown folk. The hypocrisy is rather transparent and with the right this is all that is. I personally don't believe in abortion, but there are other worse ills such as the incapability of caring from birth to adulthood for an individual.

susanthe said...

Anonymous # 2 - there's always plenty of money for war.

We keep on building weapons the military doesn't want. Look up the C27 Cargo Plane, the M1A1 Abrams Tank, and of course the F35 fighter - the most expensive non functioning fighter plane ever.

The Pentagon has NEVER been audited. It can't account for trillions. Perhaps that would be a good place to start. I assure you we don't spend trillions on the homeless.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe if we stopped spending all of our tax dollars on providing for non-citizens and citizens who expect the rest of us to provide for their every need..." Where do people get this nonsense, and why do they actually believe it?? HOW GULLIBLE CAN YOU BE? "All" our tax dollars? For "non-citizens"? I smell contempt for the unfortunate and for people of color. Too bad you lie awake nights, wondering if someone bought a Snickers bar on your dime. Check out how much of your tax money goes to make up for corporate tax evading "inversions" and loopholes. It is much, much more than goes to social welfare programs. But I bet you don't care. The POINT is to express your inner bigot, right?