Comment history

Obama’s infrastructure argument doesn’t hold up

This argument is a shell game. It suggests economic growth and stability are not functions of infrastructure and that infrastructure is "constant." Well, no. It's not. It takes money, tax dollars, to maintain infrastructure. The market won't do it any more than it's running high speed internet to rural residents. The market did not build our electrical grid or highway system. The government did and if it hadn't, our good friend Charles would not be able to publish such spin in the first place.

Investment in infrastructure is the single biggest contributor to economic growth that can be made. Just ask nations like Afghanistan or those in remote Africa what it's like not to have roads or the centralized government to make them happen. Infrastructure is the biggest reason Iraq is relatively stable and Afghanistan will not be. With it, commerce can emerge. Without it, markets do not materialize. It's also why the military invests so heavily in the infrastructure of both countries.

Furthermore, there is more than one type of infrastructure. There is something called a human infrastructure, which simply means that you have the right talent in place to serve the right sector of the population at a given capacity. If a town has no teachers, then the town must build its human infrastructure to accommodate its need through some means of attracting or growing its pool of teachers. Either way, it takes investment.

The federal government is no different. It builds infrastructure, human or otherwise, by various types of investments. Yes, some of those investments go toward social welfare by means of assistance programs. To not have those programs is to accept a sharp rise of instability and crime that would undermine the intent far more than the cost of the programs ever would.

In the end, you cannot have economic expansion and stability without the infrastructure to support it. That includes human infrastructure, or what Charles might call "variable" infrastructure. That kind of investment has a net gain in financial terms, competitiveness, and social stability for us all. If we are to maintain any semblance of civil society, then taxes for these investments are the price we pay to live in that civil society. But if you don't like centralized government and the investments it makes, go ahead and move to Afghanistan and get a taste of what you're wishing for.

July 21, 2012 at 3:21 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

couldn't agree more.

March 29, 2011 at 3:37 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

"...raise taxes or reduce benefits. We have already raised taxes."

Correction: We have already raised taxes on already burdened residents. Large business operations like Plastikon continue to receive tax breaks and incentives that negate the employment value they bring to the city. Those operations enjoy disproportionate amounts of city services and infrastructure, if not influence. If they are going to have large semi-trailers weighing multiple tons driving up and down our roads and destroying them, they should help pay for the repair of those roads in a manner commensurate with the damage they cause. If large box stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart are going to siphon more wealth away from the community than they inject into it through employment, it's only a manner of time until that well-of-wealth runs dry.

Fair taxation is not part of a communist revolution. It's a moral responsibility of each and every resident, with or without a surname of 'inc.'

March 29, 2011 at 2:58 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

"So you are saying that the government would rather keep its own employed, than have a reduction when automation has replaced the need for some employees? In other words, the public sector has no qualms spending the public’s money even when it no longer makes sense to do so?"

I am simply saying that when there are problems with an economy, it is considered the government's responsibility to respond. If it weren't we wouldn't hold our presidents governors and mayors responsible for economic conditions. Corporations have a responsibility to their share holders but not necessarily to the broader public. They weren't designed to. Government was. The two have vastly different reasons for existing.

Automation is proving a long term problem and will most likely drive a shorter workweek and higher productivity as it did during the industrial revolution. It's the only way to keep enough jobs around to support an economy. However, it was government that ushered in that 40 hour workweek. It was not done voluntarily by business even though it proved to huge economic boon for them later on. Think of it like this: If the workweek were still 70 or more hours per week, given the state of automation today there would not be enough jobs to support the population. There would be no economy to speak of. The shorter workweek was the natural byproduct of rapid automation and population growth.

March 29, 2011 at 1:19 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

I didn't say we should take everything from the rich. However, when you stop to consider that a person who makes $200,000 is in the exact same tax bracket as someone who makes $200 million or $20 billion the inequities shine through. There is graduate taxation throughout the lower levels of income but not throughout the higher levels. Please look at the following CIA summary of the American economy.

March 29, 2011 at 12:39 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

There is no hard and fast rule for fixing corruption but many of the compensation models we have to today were devised as a result of widespread corruption in the past. There will always be personality types that do what Madoff did. The corrupting aspect of that, however, was the regulatory agencies that looked the other way. That particular case was driven by the corruption of politicians who must rely on wealthy donors for campaign financing. They in turn pressure or de-fang the regulatory agencies that were created to prevent the Madoff's of the world from having that type of corrupting effect.

March 29, 2011 at 12:32 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

You are absolutely right. Some have branched out to rural areas, but most are struggling to turn a profit. Few have funds to invest in further expansion. It's not their fault. They're doing what they are designed to do. Nonetheless, there would not be a rural broadband initiative unless there was a need. That need is reflected in rural residents' finding themselves and an increasing competitive disadvantage in business, education, and access to government due to that lack of broadband.

March 29, 2011 at 12:23 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

These are services. The example you used was of supporting military service. The problem you identified is one of fraud, waste, abuse, corruption or all of the above.

March 29, 2011 at 12:17 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Customer service

I admit that it's not too much to ask for city departments to have unambiguous and fair billing practices. However, billing issues like this should be taken as warning flares of larger issues down the road.

This is what happens when we demand smaller government, slash budgets, place tax burdens on the lowest echelons of earners, and implement austerity measures or higher prices on those same people--especially during an economic downturn. There is degraded and slower service while the expectations and demands of the public rise. Employees have to assume ever increasing levels of responsibility with lesser incentive or reward. Their time is taxed more and more. Their motivation and loyalty deteriorate. They finally move on to find other employment or become apathetic. It all culminates with government's inability to respond to the demands of its citizens as this editorial does.

At some point in the future there will be a crisis or a scandal that makes people realize that they really do enjoy good, capable government. By then, it's too late. The capability of government to respond is gone. The processes are antiquated. Knowledge, experience and expertise are gone. The tax base is depleted. Things like trash pick up move from every week to bimonthly. Property values begin to plummet. School systems reach the breaking point. Things like crime and poverty begin to peak. If the deterioration of service continues, the long-term economy declines and attendant population flight soon follows.

If, as this editorial demands, "...the utilities department should get to work on figuring out how to provide better service to their taxpaying customers," then the city needs to stop giving tax breaks to the largest business operations as it recently did with Plastikon. It's time for these operations to become truly responsible members of the community. Otherwise, we can expect city government to continue squeezing its residents for more revenue while providing lesser quality service.

March 29, 2011 at 10:19 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Pension plaint

"Do you honestly think that companies don’t want stability and security in their employment ranks too?"

Yes, they want stability insofar as it enables their business practices. However, most would opt for the efficiency of automation above loyalty to a workforce. They are not bound by any broader obligation to the public than that.

"In 1960, the US military removed wool from its list of strategic materials. However, it was not defunded until 1995. Add to that the fact that the subsidy disproportionately benefited the few largest producers. That is 35 years past the end of the requirement."

This has nothing to do with employee compensation but it does say something about the influence of the market in government.

"If on the other hand you are suggesting that the government take over the telcom industry and thus provide phone service for us in order to make sure rural areas have phone service, do you really think they would be more efficient?"

Depends on the goal of a program. Do we want service or efficiency? If fiscal efficiency, then keep broadband the way it is. If it's a service goal, then [as your post suggests] only government action or intervention of some sort will bring it to them because its simply not efficient for companies to run a wire to every rural house. The main point was simply to illustrate the different outcomes between public and private policies regarding the saem subject.

"Do you have any idea what you are talking about? I didn’t go into the private sector with the idea I would get richer than if I go into the public sector."

Missing the point here. The entire justification of a privatized system is that it's supposed to give people, the individual, the opportunity to ascend without limit based on market principles. Not so in the public sector. It wasn't long ago that most people were appalled at teachers' salaries. Today teachers are demonized for that same salary. That was always the thinking behind public employment: the trade of wealth for security and stability.

"So are you saying that for instance police officers working with drug busts will naturally take the drugs seized and re-sell them since they know that is the only way to make more money than the drug pushers?"

Corruption and abuse take many forms but the motives and forces behind them are usually very similar. There is a statistically significant relationship between compensation, personal security and corruption.

"Even if we took every dime that Bill Gates, the Walton’s, Warren Buffet, Koch’s brothers, etc have we still would have debts."

Yes, under a fairer tax system we would still have debt but not necessarily deficits and degraded services.

March 28, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. ( | suggest removal )