Dispatches from Wolf Country — Ozymandias Cometh

Really hard to drain the swamp while fighting alligators if you can't get there because the roads have crumbled, the bridges collapsed and the electrical power grid has decided to blow out

“Let’s Get Excited about Maintenance” NYTIMES /Laurie Rollitt Drawing, July 23. 2-17

NY Daily News Photo, Pot Hole Repair

One of the oddities of the past couple of years is the election of a “Builder” president whose wealth is derived not so much from Building as from branding based on family capital derived from boarding houses, bordellos, racial profiling and being a slum lord. He delights in slapping gold facing on things and chiseling his name on it. He builds beehives for the rich, remodels older things turning them into new beehives for other rich people, and playhouse beehives for other rich folks who like golf carts and titanium carriers from Coach and Gucci.

So, because he’s a rich bozo who gold plates sand castles that he cons other people into paying for and because he’s a real estate developer who managed to mismanage casinos to the point of bankruptcy, the people who voted for him assumed he would have the talents to “Make American Great Again.” Whatever that means, in your mind and your mind and your mind and your mind. He’s never really laid out what it means in his mind…besides bigger, more gold-colored, and scary as all hell.

So, after screwing up the health care situation beyond belief by not paying attention to detail, allowing tax reform to be degraded into Paul Ryan’s wet dream of infinite tax cuts for the rich so the rich can be richer while the poor are made more destitute, expanding our military footprint  to defend dictators and authoritarians everywhere, he has yet to turn his attention to anything that he supposedly understands.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure continues to fail, and nobody gets it. If you are looking for a Crusade to put people back to work, screw “shovel ready” new projects funded by “public-private partnerships” and start spending money on fixing what we have now…all of which is in danger of crumbling.

In their article “Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance!” Professor Andrew Russell, Dean of Arts and Sciences at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and Professor Lee  Vinsell of the Department of Science and Technology at Virginia Tech  make a case for avoiding the fascination with the new for now, and paying attention to what we’re currently facing — system wide failure of essential infrastructure. Or, to put it another way, it may be difficult to drain the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators, but it’s really hard to drain the swamp while fighting alligators if you can’t get there because the roads have crumbled, the bridges collapsed and the electrical power grid has decided to blow out because it’s old, and not in very good shape. 

It’s particularly interesting to realize that while the President continues to chase a “repeal and replace” fantasy with all the zest of Ahab on crack and Spanish Fly, the Republicans have moved on to…tax reform. Now, since their goal for “tax reform” was always really just huge tax cuts for the rich, this may not be the wisest thing they’ve ever done. Trump is blinded by his own reflection, but Ryan and McConnell are blinded by ideology and their perceived need to suck up to the Koch Bros and their allies. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the Trump Base is all that interested in tax cuts for the rich. So, who knows where that will go…

What surprises me is the absence of obvious effort on infrastructure. If there was ever a place where repair and replace made sense, that’s the place. Bridges and roads collapsing, dams collapsing, spillways collapsing, water mains blowing out all over California, forest fires and range fires eating up the west — you might think this would be a logical thing to move toward. But, unless a busload of crippled rich children cared for by volunteer nuns on the way to Disneyland on a trip sponsored by Beyonce and Kid Rock collapse into a giant sinkhole collapsing into a major intersection of the Interstate, I suspect no one will square the circle, in Washington or in the media.

There are some not good but obvious reasons for this. Maintenance is critical; but it’s not sexy. Trump and gang talk about bulldozers which are great for knocking things down and moving stuff from here to there. But, road work is boring…truck dumps asphalt, spreader moves asphalt around, roller rolls asphalt, and rolls the asphalt and rolls the asphalt, and traffic backs up and people get angry and irked while people struggle to not piss their pants, women give birth to babies and occasionally some are conceived when the asphalt truck jack knifes and rolls and all the lanes close.

Bridge repair is boring. Most of it is beneath the bridge, of course, so you can’t see it. Repairing pipelines, sewers, and waterlines is boring. They dig up the road, take out the old lines, lay the new lines, and cover it back up. Unless the trench collapses or the pipe breaks and vents, nothing to see there…and who wants to get their picture taken next to a sewer line as it’s being capped or closed or routed…not Trump.

So, we’ll have to wait for infrastructure until sometime in the future. Conserving our infrastructure would seem to be a logical Conservative big deal, but the only big deal for these guys is not having to pay taxes to support anything. So, we’ll see…

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