Levees Not War
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Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure’

Gov. Cuomo cites “dramatic change in weather patterns”

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Sees Evidence of Climate Change, Need for Upgraded Infrastructure

In his 11:30 a.m. briefing the day after Hurricane Sandy, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made a clear reference to climate change, or global warming, about 30 minutes into his remarks: “Anyone who thinks that there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality.”

There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That’s not a political statement, that is a factual statement. Anyone who says that there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality. . . . I said to the president kiddingly the other day we have a one hundred year flood every two years now. So, this city doesn’t have experience with this type of weather pattern. . . . I think it’s something we’re going to have to take into consideration, and educate ourselves. And as we’re going through the reconstruction and rebuilding, we’re going to have to find ways to build this city back stronger and better than ever before. . . . We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns. We have an old infrastructure and old systems, and that is not a good combination. And that is one of the lessons I’m going to take away from this. That and the courage of New Yorkers and the spirit of community of New Yorkers . . .

Thank you, Governor Cuomo. We have been making the same point ourselves (see here and here), but it makes a much bigger impact when the governor of New York says that climate change is behind the “dramatic change in weather patterns”—especially when the presidential candidates dare not face the fact or call it by its name.

Gov. Cuomo covered many other important points as well. More about his remarks here (see 12:56 p.m., Oct. 30).

Al Gore: “Dirty Energy Makes Dirty Weather”

Another heavy hitter spoke out today where candidates fear to tread. Former vice president Al Gore contributed a “Statement on Hurricane Sandy”:

Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. . . . 

Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy’s storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse. 

Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.

Al Gore, “Statement on Hurricane Sandy

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Framing the Case for Infrastructure Investment, Taxing the Rich

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Attn.: Pro-Infrastructure Activists and Democratic Strategists:

In a Feb. 4 letter to the editor of the New York Times, Rick Stone of Madison, Wisc., makes a point that more of us should heed:

If the wealthy knew with certainty that their increased taxes would make the roads they drive safer, resistance might be less. Yet higher taxes have generally not been framed as such, but rather as a fairness issue—that you make too much, so we’ll take some of yours to give to others.

He is responding to an op-ed piece by Cornell University economics professor Robert H. Frank titled “Higher Taxes Help the Richest, Too,” a somewhat abstruse argument that takes about 900 words to make a rather simple point about why the wealthy resist tax increases. Still, we agree with the basic point, perhaps best summarized in the final sentence, “when the anti-tax wealthy make campaign contributions, they are buying only the deeper potholes and dirtier air that inevitably result when tax revenue is low.”

Earlier in his letter, Rick Stone cites the “behavioral economics concept of loss aversion—the idea that people strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.” The impulse to avoid losses can best be countered by showing what the tax increases could make possible. And then—he doesn’t say this, exactly, but we do—change the discourse from a scarcity and austerity framework to a maldistribution-of-wealth argument.

Naomi Klein on The Rachel Maddow Show in October praised the genius of the “We Are the 99%” slogan and said the Occupy Wall Street activists were smart to take the protest to “the source of maximal abundance,” to put the lie to the discourse of scarcity. “It’s not a scarcity problem,” she said, “it’s a distribution problem.”

Mr. Stone of Madison is not talking specifically about reinforced levees or expanded public transportation, but his point applies there as well. When we push for raising taxes on the under-taxed Upper 1 or 2 Percent (and we do); when we try to generate support for what even sympathetic politicians timidly call “revenue increases,” we must show specific examples of what the revenues would pay for: stronger levees, repaired roads, expanded rail service, schools and post offices that are allowed to remain open, and so on.

We agree that arguments for higher taxes should be framed in terms of what they would make possible—that is why we are calling attention to this letter—but if Mr. Stone is saying that calls for higher taxes should not be framed as a fairness issue, then we disagree. He’s probably right that the benefits to the public (including the wealthy) should be at the forefront, but fairness should certainly be part of the argument.

What Would George Lakoff Say?

We have quoted before the advice given to us by U.C. Berkeley linguist and political analyst George Lakoff. He said that in promoting investment in infrastructure and other public goods, Democrats should not try to imitate Republican appeals to self-interest (and certainly not appeals to fear), but rather should argue for doing what is morally right. People will warm to the moral argument if it is presented simply and directly. It is right and fair for a government to collect some portion of people’s income to pay for the building of schools and roads and for monitoring food safety, etc. As we wrote in a piece on the social contract posted in Sept. 2009:

He said the moral appeal is always the best. It’s honest and it is more persuasive. Democrats and progressives, he said, always fall for the “Enlightenment fallacy,” the naïve belief that if you simply present the facts, people will see the light and support your cause. Not so simple. . . . Democrats should never try to imitate Republican appeals—it’s never believable. Instead, use the moral argument (the golden rule)—It’s the right thing to do. Expanding health care coverage, protecting our cities from hurricanes with reinforced flood protection is the right thing to do, morally and ecologically. 

Lakoff said Democrats and progressives are never persuasive with the appeal to self-interest—they can’t compete on that turf with Republicans. Part of the weakness of the self-interest approach is that it is fragmented, does not show how the various parts are connected, and therefore lacks a cohesiveness and persuasive force because it. To be persuasive, what we must do is show how seemingly disparate phenomena are related. Show, for instance, how the nation’s dependence on oil and the ravaging of the wetlands are connected; how the 10,000+ miles of oil and gas canals through the Louisiana wetlands destroy the storm-surge buffer that protects us from hurricanes, while the carbon emissions aggravate global warming, which intensifies hurricanes and raises sea levels, and so on. [Continue reading here.]

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Thanks to Rick Stone of Madison for taking the time to write the letter, and our best wishes for the people of Wisconsin—especially the embattled public employees and union members there. We stand with Wisconsin.

See also “Public Works in a Time of Job-Killing Scrooges

The Social Contract, Explained by Elizabeth Warren, Paul Krugman, and Robert Kuttner

Tyranny Disguised as Fiscal Discipline

Republican War on Working Families

‘Shock Doctrine’ in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, as in Egypt, ‘This Is What Democracy Looks Like’

 

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“Pass This Jobs Bill”

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

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“I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans—including many who sit here tonight. . . .”

“This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle class. And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for.”

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President Challenges Congress to Act as if It’s Functional

President Obama did the right thing—about two years late—in asking for an address before a joint session of Congress. For only the second time in his presidency in a speech other than a State of the Union address (the other occasion was in September 2009 when he launched a big push for health care reform), the president pitched to the nation a plan costing just under $450 billion designed to avert a second recession and attack an unemployment crisis and economic stagnation that require action now. Economists say it could add almost 2 million jobs. Paul Krugman says, “significantly bolder and better than I expected.” Even conservative NYT columnist David Brooks says the plan has potential and is worth pursuing.

In “plainspoken, Trumanesque” language—no wonky terms or professorial manner tonight, not even the highfalutin word “infrastructure”—Obama pressed for a jobs and economic relief package with a memorable name, the American Jobs Act, that is 55% tax cuts, 31% infrastructure and local aid, and 14% unemployment insurance. (Detailed breakdown here.) He stressed the bipartisan origins of the proposals, and about a dozen times in 30 minutes he directed Congress to “pass this bill.” Obama was assertive, even imperative, yet his message was warmed by a progressive moral vision; if he keeps this up he just might win re-election.

What’s in the American Jobs Act?

Washington Post policy analyst Ezra Klein observes that “the plan, taken as a whole, attempts to include every single theory of how to address the jobs crisis. If you believe we need more direct spending, you’ve got the infrastructure component. More tax cuts? The plan has $250 billion in tax cuts. More help for the unemployed? Yep.”

Among the elements identified by Ezra that we find most appealing are:

•  “$35 billion in aid to states and cities to prevent teacher layoffs, and earmarks $25 billion for investments in school infrastructure.”

•  “$50 billion for investments in transportation infrastructure, $15 billion for investments in vacant or foreclosed properties, and $10 billion for an infrastructure bank.” (Why not the $50 billion for an infrastructure bank that Obama has proposed before?)

•  “$49 billion to extend expanded unemployment insurance benefits. $8 billion for a new tax credit to encourage businesses to hire the long-term unemployed, and $5 billion for a new program aimed at supporting part-time and summer jobs for youth and job training for the unemployed.”

The jobs act, crafted by the administration, not left to the tender mercies of congressional committees—is heavily weighted with originally Republican ideas that will make it politically harder for the G.O.P. to dismiss. They will invent reasons to reject it anyway, though House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did have the decency to release a statement that “The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration.” Maybe those golf games are paying off. Republicans do not want to allow this president any kind of accomplishment before November 2012, regardless of the deep and widespread suffering of millions of jobless, homeless, hopeless fellow citizens whose taxes pay the representatives’ salaries and health plans. (Note: The American Jobs Act “will not add to the deficit”: it will be paid for by cuts elsewhere. Even if it were not paid for, it would cost only about half of the projected $800 billion addition to the deficit incurred by extension of the Bush Tax cuts for million- and billionaires in Dec. 2010.)

“The people who sent us here—the people who hired us to work for them—they don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months. Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.”

“Paycheck to paycheck”? Some 15 to 20 million would-be workers have no paycheck at all, not even unemployment benefits.

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Republicans Secretly (Seriously) Like the Stimulus

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Begin here, President Obama: Create jobs by approving all G.O.P. requests for stimulus funds.

Here’s the best new idea we’ve heard in a long time (h/t to Rachel Maddow): When HuffPo’s Sam Stein reported that “Michele Bachmann Repeatedly Sought Stimulus, EPA, Other Government Funds,” Steve Benen of Washington Monthly thought of something politically savvy that could jump-start new job creation:

How about a new stimulus package focused on granting Republicans’ requests for public investments?

Here’s the pitch: have the White House take the several hundred letters GOP lawmakers have sent to the executive branch since 2009, asking for public investments, and let President Obama announce he’ll gladly fund all of the Republicans’ requests that have not yet been filled.

This is especially important when it comes to infrastructure, a sector in which GOP members have pleaded for more investment in their areas. When pressed, these same Republicans will offer an explanation that “sounds like something out of the mouth of a Keynesian economist, rather than the musings of a congressman who proudly touts his support from the Tea Party movement.”

So, how about it? If these Republican lawmakers have identified worthwhile projects in need of government spending, which they themselves insist will boost the economy, why not start spending the money GOP officials want to see spent?

Steve Benen, this is brilliant. It could work.

Never Mind the Hypocrisy—Just Get It Started.

What Sam Stein found through a Freedom of Information Act request for federal records was that Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who poses as a fiscal conservative and has publicly denounced the “orgy” of federal spending and called the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “fantasy economics,” has asked the federal government for financial help for her district on at least 16 occasions. Well, we can’t blame her: she knows that federal spending does create jobs by funding projects to build roads and bridges, hire teachers and police officers, and so on. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (above) knows it, too. 

Steve Benen’s bright idea—and we should all push the White House (202-456-1111; comments@whitehouse.gov) and Congress to put this into action immediately—is to approve all the requests by congressional Republicans for federal funding of projects in their districts. Never mind the hypocrisy. This should come very easily to this president, who can’t seem to say no to Republicans anyway.

Obama should call in the press as he approves the projects in batches, day after day. He can use a big rubber stamp and say, “Yes to Republican Representative Bachmann who asked for funding for the Trunk Highway 36 bridge project over the St. Croix River to produce 1,400 new jobs. Approved. Yes to Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who asked for stimulus money for an ethanol plant to create 750 jobs. Approved . . .” And then, after illustrating the point day after day, move on to approve Democrats’ requests.

[ Click for PDFs of letters from Republican members of Congress citing job creation in requests for stimulus funds for their districts (Bachmann, Sessions, Moran). ]

‘S’ Is for Stimulus—But Call It Whatever You Want

On the Rachel Maddow Show, Steve Benen said that it doesn’t matter whether we use the term “stimulus” or “jobs program,” which Republicans hate, or whatever. Just do it.

If this is a list that Republicans came up with, saying these are things that they believe will create jobs in their own communities, their own districts, their own states, then at a minimum, if Democrats want to make these investments and create jobs, then just start here. Now, one might say, well, at that point, you might look at job opportunities in blue districts and blue states. but fine, we can get to that later. If we just want to . . . inject capital into the system, create jobs right away, we want to create demand in this economy, we can start with the list Republicans came up with and make an immediate difference. . . .

[Bachmann] is one of many who have requested public funds . . . but then publicly rail against public spending. . . . So, to a certain extent, she’s not unique. But at the same time, she is uniquely brazen. She . . . requested funding from the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, for her district despite the fact that she doesn’t believe the EPA should even exist, and she actually wants to eliminate the agency altogether. And so, . . . trying to communicate to Republicans the importance of these kinds of projects, Democrats are in a position to say, well, [if] even Michele Bachmann believes that all this public spending can create jobs and help the economy, then other Republicans can certainly go along because she’s to their right.

Don’t Wait for Congress to Act, Mr. President. FDR Established the WPA by Executive Order, Employed 8.5+ Million.

As we wrote to President Obama (and to Democratic members of Congress in similar letters) during the debt ceiling crisis in July:

The millions who voted for you are begging you to address the nation’s real crisis and launch an ambitious WPA-style jobs program and lower the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security to 55. That would restore public and investor confidence, and would invigorate this lame, sucking economy. If tax rates were fair, this wealthy nation could afford it. You could help make it happen. 

Your reelection would be less in doubt if you gave America’s 15+ million unemployed and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure a comprehensive WPA-style jobs program at least 10 times as aggressive as the ARRA stimulus: public works, transportation (not just high-speed rail), public housing, environmental conservation (think CCC), schools, hospitals. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t wait for Congress: he established the WPA in 1935 by executive order. You could do the same.

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See “After Voting to Kill Recovery, 110 GOP Lawmakers Tout Its Success, Ask for More Money” •  “Freshman Republicans Lobby Federal Agencies for Millions Amid Spending Critiques” • “Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View” • “Jindal Tours Louisiana Attacking ‘Washington Spending’ While Handing Out Jumbo-Sized Stimulus Checks” •  More links at Crooks and Liars’s coverage of The Rachel Maddow Show’s “They’re Not Embarrassed” • “They’re Not Embarrassed” video link

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Public Works in a Time of Job-Killing Scrooges

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

 

[ A modified version of this piece appears at New Deal 2.0, a project of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. ]

Last week we went to a panel discussion on public works and infrastructure at the Museum of the City of New York: “Roads to Nowhere: Public Works in a Time of Crisis,” part of the museum’s ongoing Urban Forum series on infrastructure in New York. The discussion focused on NYC and environs, but has implications for public works—infrastructure and transportation—around the nation, including levees and flood control projects in coastal Louisiana, this blog’s primary concern. The same pressures affecting public works funding (or slashed funding) in New York hold for the U.S. generally.

The distinguished panel—moderated by Michael M. Grynbaum, transportation reporter for The New York Times—were Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Company (MTACC); Joan Byron, Director, Sustainability and Environmental Justice Initiative at Pratt Institute; Denise M. Richardson, Managing Director, General Contractors Association of New York; and Jeffrey M. Zupan, Senior Fellow for Transportation, Regional Plan Association. The panelists’ collective expertise was most impressive, almost formidable, and quite to the liking of the near-roomful of about 150 transportation and public works geeks.

What the experts did not discuss to our satisfaction was the political dimension to the “Time of Crisis”: Why are there budget shortfalls? Which political party is doing most of the canceling of projects, and why? What wouldn’t be possible if the rich and corporations paid their fair share of taxes? And why, we keep wondering, aren’t the president or congressional Democrats pushing anything like the WPA & CCC programs that rebuilt America and employed millions in the last big depression? More about these questions below.

Michael Grynbaum began by reading quotations from a report on how the building of the Second Avenue subway line in Manhattan was affecting local East Side businesses, parking, etc. A spokesman from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) estimated that work would be completed on the long-planned line in 10 years. Date of article: 1977. Status of project: still ongoing. Audience response: pained laughter, chagrin. If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.

Hanging over the whole discussion, Grynbaum noted, was the shocking, job-killing decision by New Jersey governor Chris Christie in October 2010 to pull the state out of the ARC project—a new train tunnel under the Hudson River linking New Jersey and Manhattan—because, in Christie’s view, New Jersey was having to pay too much, more than originally budgeted. The cancellation outraged local officials and the public generally, and the Obama administration sought to negotiate a compromise, but Christie rejected the offers. (The two tunnels shown at left, built about 100 years ago, are N. J. Transit’s only way in and out of New York City.)

Denise Richardson said that Christie’s cancellation of this project that would have provided public benefits for at least a century to come—not to mention easier commutes and less auto traffic—would immediately cost about 6,000 direct jobs at a time when unemployment among contracting workers is already at 30%. (The blog 2nd Avenue Sagas says the cancellation means $478 million flushed down the drain for New Jersey alone.)

Grynbaum pointed out that not only Christie but other Republican governors across the United States—in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida—have been rejecting federal appropriations for high-speed rail. (Or, in Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s case, not even applying for the funding.) Many of the same job-killing GOP governors who publicly reject stimulus money as “wasteful federal spending” quietly take the money anyway and have their pictures taken handing out checks to constituents.

What can be done in a time of budget shortfalls and critical needs for repair and expansion of public transit and other infrastructure? The public can and should individually and collectively demand generous funding for these projects—through letters to the editor, letters and phone calls to elected officials, whatever it takes. We must also help educate our fellow citizens that the benefits are not for a few but for all.

Panelists generally agreed that transportation and public works supporters must do a much better job of communicating to the public the benefits of public works and transportation and mass transportation in particular. The public does not want to have to pay any higher taxes, understandably, but often the benefits of the public works programs are not evident and the support is lacking.

Hey Obama, Congress, Where’s the WPA for Our Depression?

Michael Horodniceanu said that it is difficult to spread the view of public works as beneficial to all the public amid the pervasive anti-government rhetoric spread by conservative politicians. The tax on gasoline is too low to fund mass transit expansion, and would be voted down. He contrasted the widespread American view (and unwillingness to pay for public transportation) with the French readiness to embrace and pay for public works. He cited a field trip of a group of French students to see building of the trans–English Channel tunnel popularly known as the Chunnel, while across the Channel a group of British citizens were protesting the “eminent domain” taking of wheat fields to be used for the building of the tunnel and rail line into London. The implication was that the American attitude is more like the British than the French.

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Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 5 in New Orleans

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Winner of the 2010 Ashley Morris Award: Clifton Harris of Cliff’s Crib

New Orleans blogger Clifton Harris, right, receives the Ashley Morris Memorial Award from emcee George “Loki” Williams, center, and Mark “Oyster” Moseley. Photo courtesy of M. Styborski. Cliff Harris’s writing also appears in the new book A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans (Gallatin & Toulouse, 2010). The motto of Cliff’s Crib is “Embrace Your Potential and Be Productive. Long Live the Lower Ninth Ward.” Warm congratulations to Clifton Harris. Read his blog and buy the book. We have. [The coveted Ashley Award, named in honor of the legendary, larger-than-life Ashley Morris, is presented each year to a blogger who has made outstanding contributions to writing about post-Katrina New Orleans. Ashley Morris, Ph.D., who died in 2008, was one of the founders of the Rising Tide conference and an inspiration for the Treme character Creighton Bernette, played by John Goodman.]

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Liveblogging follows, with earliest panels at bottom. (“Treme” panel not included, sorry. For good coverage of that, see Machelle Allman’s Watching Treme.)

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Why Can’t We Get Some Dam Safety in New Orleans? | Presentation by Tim Ruppert

3:40 Denial of killing potential of failed levees results in low standards of expectations for levee strength. Levees are considered to only protect property, not human life. The 100-year flood model is an inadequate standard of measurement that leaves N.O. and other human settlements exposed to unacceptable risk of flooding and death. ASCE advocates a risk-based assessment of levees—in other words, let’s calculate how many people would die if this levee fails (the same way dams’ failure is measured and risk-assessed). “When levees fail, people die.” We’re going to have to push Congress to act as though failed levees are every bit as threatening to human safety as failed dams are. 3:30 About 43 percent of Americans live in areas protected by levees. What it means to public safety when dams and levees are perceived as being different from each other. Begins with Johnstown Flood of 1889. Is there really any difference between a dam failure and a levee failure? National Dam Inspection Act passed in 1972, and WRDA (Water Resource Development Act) both distinguished between dams and levees. Dams are considered a life safety system—they usually hold higher levels of water than levees do. Levees are not considered life safety systems; it is assumed or expected that all people living within a levee-protected area are able to evacuate, though we know this is not actually true. 3:20 Why Can’t We Get Some Dam Safety in New Orleans? Presentation by Tim Ruppert, engineer and N.O. blogger (Tim’s Nameless Blog)

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Politics Panel: Peter Athas, Jason Berry, Clancy Dubos, Jeff Crouere, Stephanie Grace, Jacques Morial

3:05 What will Jindal do? He is looking beyond the governor’s mansion. Run against Mary Landrieu? Crouere and Dubos agree that Jindal won’t finish out his term. That is why the next lieutenant governor’s race will in effect be the next governor’s race. Dubos says he will cut the budget to the bone and then go around the country to Iowa or Florida and talk about how he cut the budget. He doesn’t care about the people of Louisiana; he cares about how his actions look on his resume. Jindal refuses to sign any revenue increase, so cuts will get worse. Stephanie Grace says that what happens to the state’s universities in the next couple of years will send a message to the rest of the nation of what Jindal stands for. 3:00 Jason Berry says a progressive media is needed to help build Democratic, progressive party, candidates, through spreading progressive ideas. As it is, we’re breeding Republicans. Even here in the most progressive urban city in the state there’s really only one progressive paper [Gambit].

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After “Epic Foolishness,” Time to Wake a Sleeping (Green) Giant

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times, a stalwart advocate for reinforced infrastructure and an eloquent defender of the unemployed, of over-stressed and under-supplied soldiers, and other victims of neglect, is usually moderate in temperament as he shows concern for the subject at hand. But in a recent column titled “Our Epic Foolishness” he’s hot under the collar—the frustration steams from his ears—and with good reason. We’re right there with him.*

For a nation that can’t stop bragging about how great and powerful it is, we’ve become shockingly helpless in the face of the many challenges confronting us. Our can-do spirit was put on hold many moons ago, and here we are now unable to defeat the Taliban, or rein in the likes of BP and the biggest banks, or stop the oil gushing furiously from the bowels of earth like a warning from Hades about the hubris and ignorance that is threatening to destroy us.

Then Herbert gets to the action part (that means us):

However and whenever the well gets capped, what we really need is leadership that calls on the American public to begin coping in a serious and sustained way with an energy crisis that we’ve been warned about for decades. If the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history is not enough to bring about a reversal of our epic foolishness on the energy front, then nothing will.

What can we as individuals do? Conserve more. Turn thermostats down, or up, depending on the season. Walk or ride a bike when possible. Conserving energy, says Herbert, is “a way of combating the pervasive feelings of helplessness that have become so demoralizing and so destructive to our long-term interests.” He also recommends a carbon tax.

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Infrastructure, Baby, Infrastructure!
A Defense of Stimulus Investments

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Joe Conason, a stalwart defender of infrastructure, has written a strong column defending the stimulus money dedicated to repairing America’s aging roads, levees, bridges, transit systems, schools, and other essential components of our nation’s physical framework. (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is working and America needs more of it.) Conservatives, says Conason, habitually decry federal stimulus spending as “pork barrel waste” and claim the stimulus failed and created no jobs; they insist Washington should cut taxes and not spend at all. (“Starve the beast.”) They say it’s wrong to burden the next generation with debt (an argument we never hear from the GOP concerning war spending). Well, friends, think of infrastructure spending as an investment, akin to paying college tuition. Here are some portions from Conason’s “Rebuilding an American Legacy”:

What would be left to future generations if the public functions symbolized by stimulus spending simply disappeared? What will the future be if government doesn’t repair and transform the roads, bridges, sewers, power grids, reservoirs, levees, airports, railways, subways, schools, parks, colleges and hospitals that we are leaving to our children in much worse shape than they were left to us? How will those facilities serve the future if they are disintegrating today? . . .

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