The second in a 4 part criticism of the ASCE's rush delivery of their nationwide "state of the infrastructure" survey. In the first part, I discussed the conflict of interest and breach of the Engineer's Code that was perpetrated by the ASCE in publishing this report today, and not as scheduled later in March.
Now I'd like to discuss the ridiculousness of their claims. The ASCE report recommends $2.2 trillion be spent in the next 5 years on infrastructure. I'm not that great at math, but that comes to around $440 billion a year, solely spent on infrastructure. For comparison, the Louisiana Purchase cost the U.S. $106 million in adjusted dollars. So for the same money as the ASCE recommends be spent in a year, you could buy over 4,000 Louisiana purchases. This is roughly equal to buying the entire surface of the earth 20 times. A year.
Of course, we've become such monetary wackos in the U.S., tossing out figures like "150 billion rebate stimulus" and "700 billion bank bailout" and "1.2 trillion for the Iraq War" that these numbers make our eyes glaze over and we simply can't fathom their actual value.
Well let me put it differently. The Joe Average infrastructure worker makes anywhere from 40-80k depending on his job, so let's just oversimplify it and say that they all make $50k a year. It would take 8.8 million workers to spend all that money, and they'd have to work for the full five years. I know unemployment is a problem, but do we have 8.8 million trained workers, ready to go? The recommendation is to spend this money asap, so where are we to get the workers? Or, given this is a construction project, how many dozers could you buy to clear all that land for highways? Well, let's assume $120,000 for a 40 ton dozer. It'd take 18, 330,000 bulldozers to spend all that money!
But were' not just talking about building roads, we're also talking about powerplants, and dams, and aviation, and bridges, and public works. All told, the ASCE report lists 15 different areas that need immediate spending. So let's oversimplify it and say each area gets their 1/15th of the money, or roughly $29 billion a year. That means we could build 15 nuclear powerplants a year, 75 total, doubling the number currently existing or in construction. We could then use the $29 billion a year allocated to roads to rebuild every single bridge in America. But wait, roads are a different category than bridges, they already have their money! So instead let's build a 6 lane highway across the entire United States. We could do it, with $145 billion.
I could go on but I sound like I'm ranting. The point is, the amount of projects the ASCE is recommending would take a generation, and cannot possibly be done in 5 years.
But the real problem I have is their claim that "inflation" has driven the price of the infrastructure work from 1.6 trillion to 2.2 trillion in 5 years. Once again, I'm no math wizard, but an increase of 500 billion in 4 years is an increase of 125 billion a year, and 125 billion is 7.8% of 1.6 trillion. Are we to believe inflation was at 7.8 percent over the last 4 years? And if it was, how much will it really cost us to perform this infrastructure work? Assuming one fifth of the spending must occur in the each year, instead of costing 440 billion a year, we get:
Year 1: 440 billion
Year 2: 474 billion
Year 3: 511 billion
Year 4: 551 billion
Year 5: 594 billion
For a grand total of $2.57 trillion.
With that same amount of money you could buy the rest of North America:
Canada $1.27 trillion
Mexico: $1.31 trillion.
Total: $2.58 trillion.
From where exactly does the ASCE propose this money come? This would require each and every taxpaying American to pay $7,300 to fund it. But as I've shown before, only a tiny percentage of Americans end up with the tax burden for stimulus. More likely, the ASCE doesn't care from where it comes, this nation is falling into a debt vortex and we have our eyes clamped tightly shut.
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