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Posted at 1:12 PM ET, 10/ 7/2010

Has the U.S. gone from can-do to can't?

By Dan Malouff

When I read yesterday that Switzerland is working on a 35-mile-long high-speed rail tunnel through the Alps, my jaw dropped. Not just high-speed rail, but high-speed rail in a freaking 35-mile-long tunnel.

Can you imagine the United States building that? I can't. In fact, back in August when some University of Pennsylvania students proposed a 19-mile-long high-speed rail tunnel under Long Island Sound, I scoffed at the idea as pure fantasy. A tunnel? Crazy. Too expensive. Too politically charged. Nobody would go for it, even if would be a great project. Never mind that the Swiss are building one almost twice as long.

The frustrating thing is that the United States isn't a poor country. We could be investing in the infrastructure that will power the 21st Century economy. Instead, as The Post reported Monday, we're content to let our infrastructure decay to the point that it harms our shared prosperity.

What happened? Are we really so poor that we can't afford to pass along to our children a working infrastructure, or do we just not care enough to do it?

Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Dan Malouff  | October 7, 2010; 1:12 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, transportation  
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Comments

I take it you never heard of the Chunnel? What is it with you useless government bureaucrats, no thought processes whatsoever. We, the people, can do it and do do it everyday, it's just you government people that can't seem to get off your fat, lazy, useless arses and get anything done. Too busy sniffing yourselves, I guess. And yet you morons claim to have all the answers and we, the people, need to be told by you idiots what to do? Stand aside, sissy boy, and we'll show you how to get things done!

Posted by: RichTheEngineer | October 7, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

@Rich the Engineer

I think the blog was referencing American infrastructure. Last time I checked the Chunnel is on the other side of the Atlantic. I'm sure that some American construction company had a role in the Chunnel projects, but the fact is it wasn't an American infrastructure investment.

Posted by: JohninDC3 | October 7, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

It's the all government is bad thing. If no on wants to pay the taxes to fund the infrastructure projects and no one is earning enough to pay even minimal taxes to support the projects they won't happen. Lack of imagination is killing us on so many fronts. Remember when U.S. projects made the top engineering wonders of the world? No more. Lack of imagination. Living in fear is so limiting.

Posted by: Reader4 | October 7, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

A tunnel through a mountain is a vastly different thing than a tunnel under a body of water.

Spiffiness is not the sole criteria. It has to be cost-effective, too.

Posted by: krickey7 | October 7, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

What happened is we spend all our money on our Military, at the rate of 7 times per capita as the next highest country (I think I heard that once). Even if I'm wrong on the 7, its still waaaaayyyy too high. Of course, I'm from Northern Virginia, so I can only complain if I accept that I'm a hypocrite, since the War/Security Machine is what fuels our amazing economy and drives our development.

Can you imagine trying to build the interstate highway system or Metro from scratch these days. It would also be a dream to even consider it.

Posted by: rocotten | October 8, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

The following is excerpted from my blog, Left-Hand View -- see the whole post here: http://bit.ly/MalouffComment

****

Last week, fellow local blogger Dan Malouff bemoaned the turning of the United States from a “can-do to can’t” nation. In the piece, he asks, “Are we really so poor that we can’t afford to pass along to our children a working infrastructure?”

****

It seems remarkable how right wingers have successfully spun a populist tale such that seniors scream for the government to keep its hands off their Medicare and working-class families vote for policies that reward almost entirely the smallest sliver of wealthiest Americans. It seems equally remarkable that this tiny sliver is so enamored of today’s tax breaks that it has lost touch with tomorrow’s bridge collapses (due to deferred maintenance) or costs to our collective wealth when inventions get developed in far-away lands.

****

No, Mr. Malouff, this country is not too poor -- in cash -- to invest in its future. We remain the wealthiest country on the planet by almost any measure. Where we are desperately impoverished is in attention span and social conscience. And we have become that way, because that is the path the utlra wealthy have chosen for us.

****

When thousands of teachers lose jobs as Wall Streeters regain their obscene bonuses, when GOP leaders fight to stop a $20-billion jobs program at the same time they vow to preserve $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%, it is no accident. It is all according to plan.

I loathe this selfishness and shortsightedness. If that amounts to anti-colonialism and class warfare, bring me more. Yes, I say, tax the rich: disable the pernicious influence their greed has on society by taking away at least some of their means to purchase that influence. Yes, I say, build more and better schools, enact laws that break up media dynasties, invest in clean energy and rebuild dams, and, yes — use money from the ultra wealthy to bring this about. Do this because progress is not measured or produced by today’s stock market close or the number of houses owned by members of the Senate. Rather, it is measured and produced by wisdom. And that is our greatest lack.

(c)2010 Keith Berner

Posted by: kbtkpk1 | October 11, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

@Rich The Engineer
what exactly are you so angry about?
who exactly built your vaunted Chunnel if not the govt?

Posted by: rshersh | October 13, 2010 4:54 AM | Report abuse

@Rich The Engineer
what exactly are you so angry about?
who exactly built your vaunted Chunnel if not the govt?

Posted by: rshersh | October 13, 2010 4:55 AM | Report abuse

@Rich The Engineer
what exactly are you so angry about?
who exactly built your vaunted Chunnel if not the govt?

Posted by: rshersh | October 13, 2010 4:55 AM | Report abuse

@Rich The Engineer
what exactly are you so angry about?
who exactly built your vaunted Chunnel if not the govt?

Posted by: rshersh | October 13, 2010 4:55 AM | Report abuse

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