Infrastructure

A Coterie of Unhappy Billionaires

A Coterie of Unhappy Billionaires

                        Robert A. Levine

Even billionaires must realize that America’s infrastructure is decrepit and resembles that of a third world country more than that of a modern state. For a nation whose main mode of transportation is the automobile and that moves goods mainly by truck, one would think that the federal and state governments would keep our roads and bridges in tip-top shape. But the opposite is true. Civil engineers in the last few years have given the nation’s infrastructure a failing grade between C- and D.

Roads and bridges were supposed to be maintained by funding derived from gas taxes and tolls. However, it’s been 27 years since the gas tax was last raised. It remains at 18.4 cents for a gallon of gas and 23.4 cents for a gallon of diesel. Yet in the last quarter century, the number of automobiles using our roads and bridges has increased significantly and more and heavier trucks are being used to transport goods but destroy the roads. State gasoline taxes vary from state to state but have not been high enough to keep the roads and bridges in fine condition. Gasoline taxes are basically user fees which would seem to be a fair way to maintain the roads and bridges. But many drivers are working class or middle class people who would be hurt by raising their road taxes.

And there are numerous other elements of infrastructure that need to be upgraded or installed aside from roads and bridges. We probably have the worst railroad system of any developed country in the world. While China, Europe and Japan have high speed, sleek trains that can go at over 200 miles per hour, American passenger trains creep along at speeds below 100 miles per hour. It’s no wonder that more Americans do not travel by train. But it’s not only the train that has to generate speed, the train tracks must be able to handle trains traveling at high speeds. In many areas, new tracks have to be installed to utilize modern trains.

There are also many of our airports and airport terminals that appear as if they were lifted from a third world nation. While some of the terminals are decent, others are in dire need of repair and rebuilding. And our ports need reconstructing, both to handle goods in container ships and people going on cruises or traveling by boat. Broadband access also has to be provided to rural areas and poor sections of major cities. If poor people don’t have access to the Internet for communication and education, they are severely handicapped in their efforts to advance to higher levels.

So how are we going to pay for all of these requirements to improve the nation’s infrastructure to compete with other modern nations? Should we employ user fees on everything and force poor and middle class people to pay for what is needed. Or should we just raise their taxes, Given the overwhelming inequality in America, corporations and the wealthiest among us should bear the cost of these improvements. Remember that federal and state governments are partially responsible for the success of our corporations and the wealth that the affluent have accumulated. The infrastructure that we have, allowing products to get to consumers was built by the government. Education was provided to train skilled workers.

Thus, the burden of paying for infrastructure improvements and new elements should be borne by corporations and the super-wealthy. Billionaires may not be happy but they should be taxed adequately so that no further debt is accumulated to pay for infrastructure. Remember that it was only four years ago that Trump provided1-2 billion dollars in unnecessary tax cuts primarily to American billionaires.

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Why Can't the Democrats Get Anything Done?

Why Can’t The Democrats Get Anything Done?

                                    Robert A. Levine

America is in trouble in the aftermath of the Trump administration and the devastating effects of the Covid 19 epidemic. It is imperative that politicians in Washington recognize this and work to produce the required solutions.

The Democrats control both Houses of Congress, admittedly by small margins, as well as the presidency. Yet on the President’s most important policy issues, the Democrats in Congress cannot seem reach a consensus and pass the bills that Biden wants. The reason is simple. Unlike the monolithic Republicans who virtually all are in fealty to ex-President Trump’s whims, the Democratic Party is really two separate parties: the moderates and progressives. And so far, the progressives have been unwilling to compromise on their wants for the good of the party and the good of the nation.

The progressive’s unwillingness to compromise makes it even more likely that control of the House and probably the Senate will be taken over by the GOP in the 2022 elections. The party out of power is generally favored in mid-term elections and the Democrat’s lack of success in passing Biden’s infrastructure bill and human infrastructure bill gives the Republicans another issue to pile on the do-nothing-Democrats.

One would think that both the moderate and progressive wing would see the necessity of passing both infrastructure bills merely from a political standpoint. But they are even more important for the country itself in this era when our physical infrastructure is old and decrepit. Our physical infrastructure must be fixed if we are truly to remain a first world country and a leader of the West. However, the level of inequality in the United States is also higher than in any other advanced nation. This means that our social infrastructure, health care, education, child care, and so forth must also be fixed to make the nation fairer and to maximize the use of our man and woman power. In a complex world, with continuous competition with China and other autocratic nations, we must use our human resources wisely. And there is also the issue of climate change that is imperative to manage aggressively.

This brings up another problem that the nation has to address. America is not replacing its population base, as women are not having the 2.1 children on average that is necessary. Adequate child care and perhaps increased benefits for children might be an answer to that problem. However, currently, we are in the midst of a blue collar manpower shortage, with not enough truck drivers, mechanics, agricultural workers and so forth. Increased immigration with specific training programs might be able to help with this. However, we also need educated immigrants in the high-tech and biologic fields. The nation needs to open up the H-1B visa program to have more educated, high skilled immigrants come to America to work in these sectors. They tend to produce start-up companies and innovative ideas and are necessary for America to keep its edge. We also require more primary care physicians, especially in rural underserved areas and in the inner cities. Nurses and medical aides are also vitally needed with many having recently retired under the pressure of the Covid 19 epidemic.

As noted, there are lots of problems which the Democrats must solve while they control both Houses of Congress and the presidency. For the good of the nation and the good of the Party, it is time they got their act together with both sections of the Party working together. It would be even better if the Republicans faced reality and worked with the Democrats to solve the pressing problems. But that is a dream unlikely to occur in this era of abject partisanship.

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Where is the GOP Going?

Where is the GOP Going?

                        Robert A. Levine 5-18-21

Since Trump took over the Republican Party in 2015, the question that needs to be asked is where is this political party headed?  What is their raison d’etre or reason for being? In the 2020 election, the Party ran without a platform or specific policy objectives. The only factor that bound members together so it could be called a party was its support of Donald Trump. That would be fine if Trump espoused a specific ideology, but he doesn’t. He is defined by populism and nationalism, but his allegiance appears to be primarily to people of wealth and perhaps how to help them get more. Though he is thought of as a populist and is adored by a large segment of the population, during his term in office he did little to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. He seemed to be mainly concerned by how to make his own life better along with those of his family and friends.

Having lost his bid for re-election, he still claims that he won and that the election was stolen from him, mostly because he does not want to be labeled as a “loser”. To obtain Trump’s support in future elections, the overwhelming majority of Republicans have backed his claim that the election was stolen though they all know this is a boldfaced lie. But few Republicans want to cross him in any way. Though he is out of office and does not have the bully pulpit any longer, he is still the leader of the GOP and all of its members must pay fealty to him or suffer the consequences. Aside from loyalty to Trump, the Republicans still have no specific policy proposals on which to run a campaign. They do oppose virtually every idea that the Democrats have brought up and tried to make into law, but opposition alone is not enough to define a political party. They need specific proposals that they are trying to make law, but thus far have not come up with anything concrete. Recently, it appears that some Republicans in the Senate may be willing to compromise with the Democrats over infrastructure plans. But this still does not a party make. They are also willing to have their members support conspiracy theories like QAnon and people like Marjorie Taylor Greene

The Republicans who oppose Trump for the most part call themselves conservatives, but they also have not come forth with a specific platform they can stand on. They are anti-Trump and anti-Democratic Party, but what are they for. What new laws would they like to see enacted? So Republicans of all stripes, pro-Trump and anti-Trump appear to be lacking goals and ideas that they can trumpet to their base and independents to help them get elected or re-elected. Are there any Republicans who know where their Party is going aside from how it relates to Trump? And outside the Party, do the Democrats or Independents know what Republicanism stands for at this point in time?

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New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

                        Robert A. Levine

America is in crisis and undergoing a steep de­cline. Covid has taken the lives of half a million people and battered the economy. Budget deficits and national debt are climbing. The nation’s infrastructure is old and crumbling while much of Europe and Asia enjoy modern highways and bridges, bullet trains connecting their main cities, gleaming new airports, and broadband connections to all sectors of their population. If America is to compete in this world and maintain its position at the top, its citizens will have to acknowl­edge the need for sacrifice and pain, will have to accept higher taxes on the wealthy and more spending on infrastructure. Americans will have to study harder and work longer, knowing that their struggles will allow democracy to flourish and that their chil­dren and grandchildren will reap the rewards. 

In past times, Americans were willing to sacrifice for the good of the nation and the generations that would follow. Sacrifice is again needed. But we need something more. The two-party system has not been working as the parties collude to maintain their hold on power, reinforcing the need for a permanent third party. This could come from the right but is needed from the center with the extreme left and extremists on the right kept at bay. The moderate Democrats and centrist Republicans should join together to give citizens a better option when they cast their ballots.

In America’s formative years, professional politicians were not involved in the creation of its defining documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, nor responsible for governing. These duties were managed admirably by public-spirited citizens: farmers, lawyers, and businessmen, physicians), who wanted to participate in the noble experiment of democracy. Perhaps what America needs now are fewer career politicians and more ordinary citizens like our Founding Fathers to become en­gaged in the processes of government and democracy. When lobbyists and special interests subvert this rela­tionship and the people’s desires are ignored, the system is failing. New parties and new participants are needed.

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