Six ways of looking at infrastructure: “It’s their world. We just serve them in it.”

Thanks to digby, we find this by Alec MacGillis in the New Republic — six snapshots from a week in America, and why we can’t have nice things, like infrastructure and train travel.

MacGillis notes this (I’m going to quote less than digby did; feel free to click to read it all):

1. On Sunday, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson concludes the weekend summit at the Venetian in Las Vegas where four Republican presidential prospects for 2016 came to make their implicit pitch for financial support from the man who spent nearly $150 million during the 2012 campaign.

2. On Monday, a Senate subcommittee releases a report on the tax avoidance used by Caterpillar, the giant Peoria, Ill.-based heavy equipment manufacturer, which cut its tax bill by $2.4 billion over the past 13 years by allotting $8 billion in revenues from its parts division to a subsidiary in Switzerland, where only 65 of the division’s 8,500 employees work. …

3. On Tuesday, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan releases the latest version of the famous Ryan budget. To make up for tax reductions for the wealthy, the budget calls for very deep cuts in spending on Medicaid, food stamps and discretionary spending, which includes research and development, transportation and infrastructure. Amtrak would lose its $1 billion in already-meager annual subsidies and have to rely entirely on fare-box revenue.

4. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court releases a 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, eliminating caps on how much total money ultra-rich donors can give to candidates, parties and PACs in a given election cycle. … Celebrating the ruling, House Speaker John Boehner says, “I’m all for freedom, congratulations.”

5. On Thursday morning, the Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed by one of the best-known mega-donors, Charles Koch, who with his brother backs Americans for Prosperity, which spent $122 million leading up to the 2012 campaign and has already spent more than $30 million in the past six months attacking Obamacare and Democratic senators up for reelection this fall. In the op-ed, Koch explains his heavy spending by warning of the “collectivists” threatening to take over the country. …

One of the nice things we can't have

A nice thing we can’t have

6. Later on Thursday morning, between 9 and 10 a.m., part of the overhead electric line that powers the Acela train comes down onto the tracks near Bowie, Maryland, between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Virtually all train traffic between Baltimore and Washington shuts down for hours as undermanned crews struggle to repair the line, thereby severely hampering traffic in the Washington to Boston Northeast corridor that carries 750,000 passengers on 2,000 trains per day[.]  …

[A] stalled Acela takes four hours and 20 minutes to make the 40 mile journey, one that normally takes an hour. German tourists on the train sit bewildered …

Six ways of looking at a train delay, like thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird:


I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

Or like six ways of looking at a train wreck of a country.

As MacGillis suggests, spending on Amtrak infrastructure (6) might give business to Caterpillar (2) but would be blocked by the casino billionaire (1) as “collectivist” (5) — he’d rather spend his money buying more Roberts Court–elections (4) so he can pocket a few more Paul Ryans (3). Then die a winner, leaving a wreck behind.

I’ll give digby the last word:

“It’s their world. We just serve them in it.”

Until we stop.


Twitter: @Gaius_Publius. Facebook: Gaius Publi.

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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24 Responses to “Six ways of looking at infrastructure: “It’s their world. We just serve them in it.””

  1. pvequalkt says:

    The two are so interconnected as to be inseparable. With the collapse of the only competing religion, communism, humanity are all capitalists. If America craters, the EU shall carry the capitalism banner. If Russian goes down, China will carry the torch. Some degree of socialism, like the EU, or very little, like where we’re headed… it’s still government of, by and for the money… where the money will always tend to aggregate upwards into few hands while the masses will be denied up to everything to keep it that way. Power may be kept at the point of a gun, like china… or be blindly ceded by the masses, like us/US. But the money will ever prevail in everything.
    As long as there *IS* a humanity, there will be capitalism. Our limbic brain will ever make it so. That is our flaw… well, one of them anyway.

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    No humanity. Capitalism.

  3. pvequalkt says:

    I agree… humanity is in its death agony… and by our own hand. Taking just the us/US rally pics… consider the irony (?) that “we” can create such a turnout… and then turn out for Rs and Ds at each election, guaranteeing that nothing will ever change, unless the courts decree it. And while LGBT changes are, as of now, tolerated by the SUPREMEs, no other changes are.

  4. eahopp says:

    Is it their world until we start putting bullets into their brains? It seems like every time I read a posting on the inequality gap, the upper rich buying politicians, or every type of greed and gluttony from the rich and big corporate businesses, I wonder just how long it will take before the corrupt system collapses on itself. You can’t have a functioning democracy when the one percenters have all the money, all the power, and all the resources, while the rest of 99 percenters are scrambling for crumbs. How long will it take before the violence occurs, and how bad will it be? I don’t know. And that worries me.

  5. emjayay says:

    That too.

  6. emjayay says:

    No, Boston to DC and then Atlanta and maybe Miami. Although I might want to carefully consider tracks to a state that will be underwater in a few years.

  7. cambridgemac says:

    Sorry, but that trillion went to foreign wars and ultimately into “defense” contractors three times over. Also to the top 0.1 per cent who deserve it because they work hard and you don’t. (A fourth trillion.) You’re just envious, loser.

  8. pvequalkt says: normally they rot from the inside out. The only exception in the past century was the thousand year reich which was destroyed from without.
    Soviet empire rotted. Ours is rotten to the core… just hasn’t collapsed yet. And, actually, ours has been propped up from without for decades — foreign nations hold trillions of our soon-2-b worthless paper.

  9. mark_in_toronto says:

    Nothing will be done until the resulting ‘inconveniences’ hit the rich directly. Maybe one of their jets will crash from cutting air traffic control funding or they’re late for a power lunch in DC because their train from New York was delayed. Or more realistically, the whole shebang just might collapse. It’s only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost. The only problem is in the meantime, millions will suffer first.

  10. DGT says:

    The Metro North railroad, connecting NYC to its suburbs is a perfect example. Commuters travel to the financial capital of the world via a 1950s rail system. It is so decrepit that a cold snap or a heat wave can paralyze it.

    In a rational world, there would be modern, high-speed trains running from NYC all the way to Boston, but decades of neglect and under-funding have left us with a transit system almost literally held together with bailing wire and rubber bands.

  11. neroden says:

    Empires collapse from the outside in; the US empire will be no exception.

  12. neroden says:

    Time for a communist revolution, I guess. I’m not seeing any other way out of this mess, since we don’t have a functioning democracy.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’s not just Republicans.

    Obama and Congressional Democrats will try to impose austerity again and to gut Social Security and what’s left of Medicare.

  14. pvequalkt says:

    not even close.
    We’re behind by almost $6T just on the EXISTING infrastructure. When you add what we SHOULD have, considering the doubling of population since we actually BUILT anything and all, it’d be way into double-digits. We have a jury-rigged, 3rd-world-ish grid and practically no rail, much less high-speed rail, just to name two. We need more solar/wind power by an order of magnitude to name another.
    We don’t exactly IGNORE it. We VOTE FOR it. As bad as it’s become, we’ll reaffirm it all again in November. Bank on it.
    And if it can be done stupidly, you can find it in the South somewhere.

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    “It’s their world. We just serve them in it.”

    Not any more.

    Their world is in it’s death agony.

    Below 1993 LGBT March on Washington, miners renew the South African Revolution, Portuguese workers arms against the IMF and austerity, LA anti-deportation rally, Madison.

  16. 4th Turning says:

    I’ve been chewing on the whole mean-spirited/lack of civility issue for quite awhile wondering
    if some of the causes besides parental abdication were too many people, too much ostentatious materialism, etc. The doc’s post on dark psychology didn’t really shed
    much light on the the prolific “unseemly” commenting I’ve run across in other blogs
    mostly encountered by accident and quickly passed over.

    There was another Tedtalk which held out hope.
    (Both presenters are easily on the eyes.)

    (My crush: George Eliot…)

  17. Naja pallida says:

    We’ve been having this argument a lot longer than 30 years, Republicans are still trying hard to undo the New Deal. By conservative estimates, we’re behind a trillion dollars on maintaining existing infrastructure. Not even considering expanding to accommodate our growing population, which is estimated would need somewhere in the range of another trillion dollars to catch up and put us on a sensible path to the future. Instead, we’re either ignoring things, begging for disaster to happen, or doing things like grinding up paved roads in Texas and returning to gravel, because it’s cheaper.

  18. GeorgeMokray says:

    I remember when the Iron Curtain fell and there was talk about a “peace dividend” back in the first George Bush Presidency. The Repugs then, as they do now, decried infrastructure funding as “spending” rather than investment. We’ve been having this fight for over 30 years and the Dims still haven’t made their argument explicit enough to cut through the fog of greed and stupidity.

  19. GeorgeMokray says:

    from Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon:
    “But she [Lady Denham] is very, very mean. – I can see no good in her. – Poor Miss Brereton! – And she makes everybody mean about her. – This poor Sir Edward and his sister, – how far nature meant them to be respectable I cannot tell, – but they are _obliged_ to be mean in their servility to her. – And I am mean too, in giving her my attention, with the appearance of coinciding with her. – Thus it is, when rich people are sordid.”

    Not only does money make you mean (and sordid) but it makes the people around the mean moneyed people meaner (and more sordid) too.

  20. pvequalkt says:

    “Until we stop”
    We not only won’t stop, we’ll affirm our servility with militance and gusto at each election until our inevitable total economic collapse and/or our being shunned by the rest of the world when THEY finally “stop” and realize that we are moron automatons incapable of change of our own accord.

  21. Bob Munck says:

    allotting $8 billion in revenues from its parts division to a subsidiary in Switzerland, where only 65 of the division’s 8,500 employees work.

    I wonder if they’re thinking about firing the other 8,435. Those 65 Swiss are making $10 million per year each in profits, but I’ll bet they aren’t the ones getting the fat bonuses.

  22. 4th Turning says:

    This video will unfortunately get pushed to the bottom. Definitely worth everyone’s time
    who winds up ruminating on this post.

  23. bkmn says:

    Regionally too. Its more important to build more stadiums for billionaire owned sports teams than it is to feed and educate people.

  24. emjayay says:

    Instead of going to Iraq for no reason, probably the same money could have built an actual high speed rail system from Boston to Atlanta and on to Florida, leaving productive pollution and carbon reducing infrastructure for a century as the original rail lines did instead of killing thousands of Americans and many more Iraqis. For all the reasons above and a lot more we just make really stupid national decisions. In related news, GWB can take his f*cking paintbrush and….

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