July 19, 2018—The issue of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure literally exploded this morning in New York City, when a steam pipe under Fifth Avenue exploded, leaving toxic asbestos on the street and a huge crater in the middle of the street. Fortunately, it appeared that no one was seriously hurt.
The New York City malfunction followed within days of a malfunction of the water system in Washington, D.C., a leakage which led to major parts of the city having to boil their water due to potential contamination.
Will these mini-crises finally spur Congress, and the Administration, to get off their rear ends and deal with the infrastructure crisis? These incidents are just a small reminder of the fact that the nation’s water system—which provides drinking water and wastewater treatment for municipalities and homes throughout the nation—is in a state of collapse. Most of the major systems were built in the first part of the 20th century, and some of them before that. Lead piping continues to pose a major health threat, as in Flint, Michigan. The yearly infrastructure report card of the Army Corps of Engineers gives the system a D rating, and estimates the need for a $1 trillion investment to replace the decaying system.
The water systems are only one part of the problem, of course, as the briefest survey of the nation’s rail system, highways, and bridges will demonstrate. It’s only a matter of time before more catastrophic failures occur.
The solution lies in the tried-and-true American System methods of funding long-term infrastructure—especially as carried out by Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which functioned as a national bank. A modern version of such an institution has been proposed under the title of a National Infrastructure Bank; click here to read the proposal.