Clinton, Trump proposals to rebuild nation’s infrastructure do too little

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, says she wants to spend $275 billion over five years to rebuild American roads and bridges. As noted here last year, that’s nowhere near enough money. Donald “I am your voice” Trump, the GOP nominee, says he’ll spend twice as much.

Neither candidate is overly specific on the details of how to fund those repairs.

But the amounts suggested are piddling. Take Clinton’s $275 billion, for example. What will that buy?

aging-infrastructureAccording to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the United States has “4.12 million miles of road in the United States, according to the Federal Highway Administration, including Alaska and Hawaii. The core of the nation’s highway system is the 47,575 miles of Interstate Highways, which comprise just over 1 percent of highway mileage but carry one-quarter of all highway traffic.” [emphasis added]

The association provides a variety of estimates for road construction and reconstruction, varying by number of lanes, urban vs. rural, rebuilding vs. milling and repaving, and so on.

Using a middle-of-the-road (an appropriate cliché here, I suppose) figure of $5 million per mile, Clinton’s proposed spending would buy reconstruction of about 45,000 miles of highways — only 1 percent of America’s traffic-bearing byways.

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Clinton’s infrastructure spending plan too little to tackle multi-trillion-dollar crisis

News item:

Hillary Clinton on Sunday announced her plan for infrastructure spending—a “down payment on our future,” she said—and it comes with a hefty price tag: $275 billion.

At a campaign event in Boston, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination called for an increase in federal infrastructure spending over five years and the establishment of an infrastructure bank—two proposals that she says will create jobs and repair the U.S.’s crumbling highways and bridges.

aging-infrastructureJust $275 billion? That’s only $55 billion annually. That’s not enough to address the ailments of the nation’s roads and bridges — let alone everything else. The Federal Highway Administration argues $170 billion is needed each year to address safety issues and performance. Federal, state, and local investment, the American Society of Civil Engineers says, amounts to only $91 billion each year. Meanwhile, bad roads cost Americans more than $100 billion annually in wasted time and fuel.

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Using Facebook to promote school fundraisers: a friend goes ballistic

A friend of mine has been using Facebook to solicit contributions for his son’s school fundraiser. He’s not alone – I’ve seen more and more of this lately, and perhaps you have, too. Last night he exploded – apparently despite all his pleas, he got no response. As in, zero. He went off on his FB friends in ways that are certain to offend a lot of them.

A few moments ago I posted this to the thread.

_________

Dear Xxxx:

I understand your frustration, and if I had kids I’d probably stay mad. But I think you’re upset at the wrong people. Continue reading

A question for NRA and LaPierre: where is that $4 billion going to come from?

by Patrick Vecchio

National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre is not a gifted public speaker. At yesterday’s press conference—the NRA’s first statement after the Sandy Hook school massacre—LaPierre’s head bobbed distractingly as he read from his notes.

I mention this because in their account of LaPierre’s speech, Eric Lichtblau and John Cushman Jr. of the New York Times described LaPierre as “angry and combative” with a “defiant tone.” I wanted to see if these descriptions were true, so I stopped reading the Times, decided not to read any accounts of the speech at all, and then watched a video of the entire press conference. Instead of seeing a combative man, I saw a man for whom the word “glib” doesn’t exist. I also saw a man oblivious to the $4 billion cost of a plan he was proposing (more on that in a bit).

The first thing I noticed, though, was a man whose version of a persuasive speech was so flawed that I would expect more from an eighth-grader. Middle school students are taught (or should be taught) that compromise is an essential ingredient of a persuasive essay. You acknowledge the other side has points worth addressing: some of them very good and worth serious consideration, or even implementation; others of the “your idea sounds good, but I disagree—and here’s why.” Even bad ideas should be politely dismissed.

LaPierre delivered none of that yesterday. He blamed random mass shootings on violent video games, on bloody movies, on the bloodthirsty media—on anything but guns. In fact, he spent so much time bashing the media that it began to sound like his strategy was to hammer the “media: bad” idea so many times that it could be turned into truth through sheer repetition. He did everything but accuse reporters of buying the guns and bullets.

LaPierre’s opening act of “blame the messenger” took up seven of his speech’s 10 pages [transcript here]—a mélange of prevarication ineptly designed to distract people from the legitimate idea that maybe the availability of guns also has something to do with school shootings. He never addressed this point, which was about as predictable as the fact that the world indeed did not end today, despite Mayan prophecy. Instead, at the top of page 8, LaPierre called on Congress to “act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school—and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.”

If that idea were the Titanic, it would have sunk immediately after leaving the pier. The National Center for Education Statistics reports there were about 99,000 public schools in America in 2009-10, the last year for which the center has statistics. LaPierre is suggesting armed guards can be stationed in all of those schools in less than two weeks.

In giving a persuasive speech, the speaker should want to sound credible instead of sounding like someone whose version of reality is as credible as a plan to raise the Titanic with dental floss. LaPierre thinks armed guards can be hired in less than two weeks during the holiday season. I suggest that by Monday night, America should deploy mutant reindeer that really can fly.

As for the cost of a guard-per-school program, how much skin does the NRA expect to have in the game? LaPierre’s speech said the NRA will provide training expertise, knowledge, dedication and “resources,” which do not appear to be resources of the financial variety.

So, just for curiosity’s sake, let’s do the math to see how much an armed-guard-in-every-school program would cost. For starters, there are about 99,000 schools in America. Are all of those schools so small that one guard will be enough? Probably not, so let’s assume about 1 percent of those schools will need two guards. That brings us to an even 100,000 guards.

Now, picture yourself as a trained, proficient, law-abiding citizen (a category into which I put all but a sliver of a fraction of gun owners). How much are you going to want to earn for being singlehandedly responsible for defending 500 students: $25,000 a year? $35,000 a year? $40,000?

Using those figures, the cost for implementing LaPierre’s plan ranges from $2.5 billion to $4 billion. This is in an era of widespread aid cuts to schools—cuts that have resulted in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer school nurses and counselors, and fewer resources, extracurricular activities, and programs. And now LaPierre proposes that Congress—which can’t agree on the phase of the moon—come up with $4 billion in less than two weeks. Yes, that will happen, and I will go bowling on Christmas Eve with Pippa Middleton.

As long as we’re in crazy ideas territory, let’s pretend the money can be found. Will it pay for 100,000 safety officers whose aim is true? Consider this: In late August, a shooting occurred at the Empire State Building. Two people died; nine were wounded. All nine were hit by stray police bullets, fragments of bullets, or ricochets, the New York Times reported.

One might think New York City police officers are well-trained in handling firearms, given the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet in a fast-moving situation on a crowded street, police officers whose lives or deaths can depend on their shooting skills managed to wound nine bystanders. Enough said.

I had hoped the Sandy Hook tragedy would prompt the NRA to reconsider its unwavering stance on firearms restrictions. Instead, LaPierre came out with a proposal so ludicrous that it’s fair to ask whether he cares at all about public safety. We waited a week for this? Armed guards in public schools?

Well then, sir, what do we do about shopping malls, movie theaters and college campuses?

Illustrations: Paul Szep

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #106: [no title due to budget cuts]

“Working for a major studio can be like trying to have sex with a porcupine. It’s one prick against thousands.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

Predicting the 21st Century: Nostraslammy's ten-year review

Ten years ago, at the turn of the millennium, Nostraslammy took a stab at predicting the 21st Century, with a promise to check back every ten years to see how the prognostications were turning out. Odds are good I won’t be able to do a review every ten years until 2100, but I figure I’m probably good through 2030, at least, barring some unforeseen calamity. And if you’re Nostraslammy, what’s this “unforeseen” thing, anyway?

Let’s see how our 22 articles of foresight are holding up, one at a time.

1: Researchers will develop either a vaccine or a cure for AIDS by 2020. However, it will be expensive enough that the disease will plague the poor long after it has become a non-issue for the rich and middle classes (although this is one case where political leaders might fund free treatment programs). The end of AIDS will trigger a sexual revolution that will compare to or exceed that of the 1960s and 1970s (unless another deadly sexually-transmitted disease evolves, which is certainly a possibility). Continue reading

Nota Bene #97: toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu'!

“To be truly free, and truly to appreciate its freedom, a society must be literate.” Continue reading

Ten years on: was Columbine the rule or the exception?

Part two in a series

How did it happen? Why did it happen? There’s simply no way to measure how many hours have devoted to these questions in the ten years and four days since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, and while we don’t (and never will) have all the answers, we do have some of them. Obviously a good bit of the discussion focuses on the individuals themselves, and other analyses cast a broader net, examining the social factors that shaped the individuals. In a way, the question we’re still debating perhaps boils down to nature vs. nurture. Were Harris and Klebold Natural Born Killers? Or are they better understood as by-products of deeper social trends and dynamics?

The answer is probably “All of the above,” but we can’t simply check C and be on our merry, uncritical way. Continue reading

What Would Jesus Do (with $40 million)?

33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

– Matthew 25: 33-40

I was reminded of this little passage today as I reviewed these numbers: Continue reading

Meet Satan's towel boy, Ralph Nader, and other famous rabblerousers in a call for open debates

He’s the man who caused Sep. 11, war in the Gulf, a million Iraqi deaths and probably mad cow disease too, as you’ve no doubt heard from disgruntled Democrats. Of course I’m talking about Evil Incarnate, consumer advocate and political gadfly Ralph Nader.

As evidenced by the comments to my piece on him way back when, he’s still roundly feared and loathed by countless Dems for supposedly helping George W. Bush, no matter how indirectly, steal the 2000 election from Al Gore and allowing everything that followed to pass. Well, he’s running for president again, and his anti-bigwig rhetoric has grown more pointed and caustic, just as the general lefty revulsion for him and his supporters has. Continue reading

When it comes to journalists, what about quality?

by JS O’Brien

(With apologies to Dr. Denny, whom I admire greatly, and who would certainly fix journalism if he could.)

Lost in the justified hand-wringing over the loss of newspaper jobs, and the inevitable reduction in the number of important stories journalists can uncover, is the issue of “quality.” I mourn the loss of quantity in the journalistic ranks as much as anyone, and I’m betting more than some, but I am more concerned with quality these days.

I happened to run across these two articles, here and here, by Alva James-Johnson, a columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Perhaps things have changed, but in my brief brush with newspapers many years ago, one did not become a columnist until one had demonstrated a depth of knowledge, insight, erudition, and quality of thought that qualified one for something near the top of one’s profession. Columnists were the cream of the crop. I hope, based on this example, that this is not the case these days. Continue reading