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Tag: David Sirota

When You Have A Second Rate Infrastructure, You Have A Second Rate Country



Here in the United States, it seems we are besieged by the label, Made in China. No longer just Wal-Mart toys but bridges, major building projects and the new Martin Luther King Memorial come from the Communist giant of Asia.

How did we get here?

It’s easy. There was a unified effort on the part of business and many of our politicians to defund the government and make it powerless. Businesses don’t want to pay taxes, that’s to be expected. What was not expected was an extremely well-financed coterie of bought theorists and servile politicians of the worst sort who successfully pushed the idea that taxation was a form of theft.

Successful societies are not built on the success of the financial elites. They are not built on the size of the military. Those are elements of a successful society, though we overvalue and over invest in both.

Successful nations build on good infrastructures. We have a deteriorating one – read this from Popular Mechanics

To fix our infrastructure, from dilapidated levees to congested roadways and ports, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has estimated that the country needs to spend $1.6 trillion over five years. Only $1 trillion of that, the organization says, has been allocated or promised. Accepting those numbers, we need an additional $600 billion to reverse the slide of infrastructure, a figure that seems as difficult to produce as it is to comprehend.

I have talked with visitors to the United States and they tell me how shocked they are by how run down everything looks. Well, it is run down. We have not been paying for keeping it up.

What is run-down in the United States that we might want to fix? According to a special report from Popular Mechanics (cited above), we need to fix the 14,000 miles of levees supervised by the federal government, fix the power grid in the United States (currently 400 billion kilowatt-hours are lost as current flows over long distance lines), fix the one-quarter of the 599,893 bridges in the United States that have structural problems or outdated designs, upgrade our ports to handle shipments more effectively and fix our canal locks on the 12,000 miles of U.S. inland waterways.

That would be a start. That would be just to get back even again.
What would we want to do to become a first-rate economy? We could build high-speed rail, invest in green development, the new urbanism and land recycling. That would be a start.
We have the know how and the people to build a wonderful America, but is there any political will in our spineless bickering ruling class?
Here’s what David Sirota thinks –

This problem is most obvious — and shocking — in our government. As opposed to multinational corporations, which care only about maximizing shareholder profit, our public-policy arena is supposed to be focused on building America. But in this golden age of big-money politics, with multinational corporations buying our lawmakers, we get the opposite — even during an unemployment crisis. Today, municipalities outsource public works projects, congresses water down “Buy America” laws, and presidents champion trade deals that encourage companies to send jobs overseas. That trickles down to give us American iconography made in Chinese factories, American real estate owned by Chinese companies, and American civil rights memorials constructed with Chinese slave labor.

I have no argument with his conclusions. Our government staggers, brain-dead and stupid, while competing nations best us in one area of endeavor after another.

It’s sickening. It’s depressing.

Where is the America that did things?

How do you find that America when every magazine and news service talks about is where the taxes are lowest as if that were the only value in a society?

Maybe that America is gone and cannot return. Maybe Milton Friedman stabbed it in the heart and it is in the middle of its death agony? Maybe the John Gaults of the world have moved to offshore oil platforms and abandoned it? Maybe we have monetized every human value and there is nothing left of greatness here?

But I’ll bet on this nation. In spite of its leadership, in spite of lunatic billionaires, in spite of bizarre self-serving philosophies of greed and self centeredness, I still believe in America and its possibilities.

James Pilant

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What “Star Wars” can teach my son about life (via Salon)

This blog deals in many ways with ethics. So, I pursue topics along those lines. When I saw this article in Salon I was intrigued. David Sirota is an author whose work I appreciate. He’s done a nice job on this one. He wasn’t just content to write a good article, he salted it with clips from various films illustrating his points.

Sirota is clearly having fun with his topic. But that’s okay, he’s invited us along.

Wherever you stand in the debate about what the Empire metaphorically represents — a huge corporation, your faceless county government, the vast military-industrial complex — it’s undoubtedly the kind of place in which many of us now toil: namely, inside a bureaucracy that has lots of worker-bee drones and a very clear management hierarchy. In the age of mass layoffs, de-unionization, the shredding of labor regulations, and a general desperation to hold onto a job, the “Star Wars” trilogy — and specifically, senior corporate executive Darth Vader — prepares kids for how that modern workplace operates.

Read this gem where Sirota reflects on the lessons of ET.

In their civics class, kids will almost definitely be told about the virtues of our Fourth Amendment — the one that’s supposed to protect their privacy. Most likely, though, they won’t be told about stuff that has destroyed those sacred safeguards — stuff like the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, Facebook cyber-tracking, and the like. To prevent kids from being confused by this paradoxical conflict between constitutional principle and the real world practices of the National Security State, Spielberg gives them “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial,” whose most frightening scene tells us how little privacy they can expect. After extensively surveilling Elliot’s family (ostensibly without warrant) via kidnapper van, the faceless government lunges into his home zombie-style — arms rigidly extended, fists tearing through walls/windows, and no warrant in sight, even as Elliot’s mom shrieks that “This is my home!” Welcome, kids, to 21st century “privacy” — expect nothing but a space-suit-clad federal agent at your door.

This is my favorite paragraph.

At some point, my son Isaac and children his age are going to want to know about the economy and the tough times of their youth. And at some point, they’ll probably hear about the housing crisis from some TV charlatan who tells them that it wasn’t really about big megabanks and shady schemes — it was really all about poor, lazy selfish minorities who were irresponsible and therefore deserved to be thrown out of their homes. But by the time they hear that factually unsubstantiated tripe, we should make sure our kids have already seen “The Goonies.”

There are many more gems like this one in the article. Please read it. We can all use a post holiday laugh tempered with a satirical edge.

James Pilant

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