Numerous cities and counties in the United States are faced with the continuous looming possibility of having to declare bankruptcy due to rising costs and declining tax revenues. It doesn’t help both state level and federal level coffers when, and if, these municipalities recover, a massive infrastructure expense looms on the horizon.
Or should we say the horizon has already come to the forefront. Infrastructure is crumbling in the USA. Not even looking at the state of education systems, and public infrastructure, the very core of transportation (roads and bridges), and sanitation (stormwater and wastewater), could not only cripple, but destroy some areas.
THe American Society of Civil Engineers released their 2013 infrastructure report card and it’s abysmal. Overall America receives a grade of D+ (somehow passing, and since when is D+ a grade?) but wastewater alone is thought to require, in capital costs alone, around 300 BILLION dollars country wide. You can let infrastructure crumble, but that plan banks on local municipalities putting money away to help cover capital costs. You can’t save money if you don’t make money.
Where WILL the money come from? Simply put, America will do what America does–borrow. Consider the estimated cost is about half of the bailout for the entire financial sector, there’s money out there. Whether America can find the resources to borrow effectively is another story.
Money will find it’s way to pay for infrastructure, probably not all at the same time, but it will likely have a positive impact on the economy. At least in the form of job creation around new infrastructure projects. That would be a much needed stimulus. But, insurmountable debt loads have come to a saturation point–there’s a time when you just can’t borrow huge sums of money anymore without either facing crippling interest rates, sky high inflation, or a devastating combo of both.
Not that infrastructure is required for everyone. Most rural areas rely on private septic systems or none at all. (Some pit the number of people without wastewater system at about 25% on the high end.)
Finding the wherewithal politically to continue considering these issues in advance (or put more poignantly, replacing what’s broken before it breaks) will take guts. All in all, this is one of many pressing needs for America as they start to determine what’s really important and what they really should be spending money on. A growing discontent is going to fuel much needed change, and that will come quickly when the things we take for granted break or crumble.