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

Photo of a bridge over Grindstone Creek in Missouri, taken 22 February, 2011. (Photo: KOMUNews)Photo of a bridge over Grindstone Creek in Missouri, taken February 22, 2011. (Photo: KOMUNews)

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

Earlier this week, 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.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

The tragic deaths of Josh, Vanessa and Hudson Ellis are yet another reminder that US infrastructure is literally crumbling.

Take our nation’s bridges and tunnels for example.

Right now, there are over 600,000 bridges in the US 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 three 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 the US, 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 (ASCE) gave the US 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 the US 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 the US public 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 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.