Monday, October 27, 2008

Infrastructure

In a recent post I wrote, I questioned the validity of right-wing charges of 'redistribution' against Barack Obama. The idea that tax relief for the middle class is somehow a socialist or marxist plot by the ebil Democrats is something that sticks in my craw coming from the folks who rode the mantra of tax relief to power while failing to deliver for most working Americans. If tax relief for the middle class is a socialist plan, then WTF was tax relief for the richest Americans?

My biggest complaint about taxes over the years wasn't that that the rich got plenty of breaks (which pisses me off when they get that inch and take a mile), or that some po' folks got 'handouts' (and it pisses me off when they abuse the system, too); it was that, no matter what percentage of what demographic paid the taxes, our return on investment should be far, far better than what it is. Not that we're getting a shitty overall return on those tax dollars spent, we're still doing OK all things considered, but we should be doing much, much better. That we spend so much public wealth on top of all we've already built and accomplished, we should have far less potholes and failing schools all around.

I bring this up based on the following snippet from SAWB's comment on the aforementioned post:

And as far as the jobs question goes, perhaps you're looking in the WRONG PLACE FOR JOBS. You know, with how cities with actual infrastructure in place tend to have actual, really-real employers, with really-real jobby-jobs they need filled, and all. But, far be it from me to let the facts get in the way of your cute little talking point...

Well, let us bring facts into my cute little talking point. I'll ignore for a moment the years of 2002 and 2003 when I looked for jobs in the Atlanta - Athens area and could come up with nothing better than a stint in a retail bookstore and a tour of duty in a fraternity kitchen; we'll ignore for a moment the years of 2005 and 2006 when I was posting resumes all over the state of Georgia for a job when the economy there was hot; let us also ignore the fact that, for the better part of 2008 when I spoke to folks in the Atlanta area that there were many folks I know having trouble finding jobs. Let us instead focus on my job search between July of 2008 and October of 2008 in a city with suspect infrastructure that makes it more difficult to find employment.

Why is the infrastructure in New Orleans suspect? Why doesn't New Orleans generate uncounted jobs every year? Why isn't New Orleans attractive to sustained economic growth? The answer is very, very simple: misuse of public wealth on local, state and national levels.

Let us look at our suspect infrastructure. Levees, roads, power grids, and coastal erosion. Effective levees require more than big piles of dirt, as farmers in the Midwest discover every five or so years. You have to have a system that works, and building that system costs money - public wealth. Public wealth to construct such a system would pay for planning, construction and implementation, creating jobs and giving a return on investment to folks all over the nation who ship their goods or have goods shipped to them anywhere the Mississippi River is factor. Roads make it easier for people and goods to get around, and offer the return of job creation and increased commerce. I can only imagine how much better things would be here if we had competition in power delivery, but here we languish under a monopoly caused by giving so many breaks to business just to keep them around. The same thing happened with the coast, as the state bent over backwards to support an oil industry that was free from ecological regulation and that ended up sending profit revenue streams to distant lands of Houston and Washington, D.C.

Let us look at our suspect business culture. Failing schools, a medical industry in turmoil and emergency services that, despite the heroic efforts of many are made a laughingstock by the few. Without adequate public schools, it will be difficult for a middle class to sustain itself here. Without adequate medical infrastructure, our population will always remain beholden to the ER. Without adequate emergency services, crime and accidents will compound tragedies and drive away those who sustain a middle class.

All of these problems are real and fixable. They can be addressed by spending public wealth correctly and efficiently. They can be addressed by effective resource management. Repairing all of these aspects of society here will drive job growth, commerce, investment and at the same time preserve the unique quality of life here that makes New Orleans so worthwhile. Will it take money? Oh, yes. Plenty of it. But you get a return on that investment all over the country, and especially in the South and Midwest. And to do so will cost less in the long term than it would be to let such problems fester unanswered.

The reason I bring it up is because New Orleans is a microcosm of what is happening all over America. While Everyplace, USA has these same problems to some degree, New Orleans gets to be the poster child of Things Gone Wrong.

A bigger problem is calling the cure 'socialist' or 'marxist' or 'redistribution.' Fix the way the money is spent, and eventually you won't have to spend so much money.

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2 comments:

Dante said...

"If tax relief for the middle class is a socialist plan, then WTF was tax relief for the richest Americans?"

I hate to break it to you Pat but a bracketed progressive income tax is a socialist idea. It's quite literally right out of the Karl Marx economic playbook. An attempt to bring those brackets closer to flat is a move towards non-Marxist tax policy. I don't see that as a problem even if the big evil rich benefit. It's still socialist tax policy but less so than having the big evil rich in an even higher bracket.

To the main point though, taxpayers will have a lot easier time letting the government talk them into paying more in taxes when the government actually starts spending money wisely. They need to do a better job of convincing us they are doing what they should be with the money they have before a lot of people are willing to hand them more.

DADvocate said...

The fallacy here is that more money for government programs will help. It won't and hasn't, except for all the college educated middle class folks filling those government jobs.

Very interesting article in this here.