October 30, 2008

Infrastructure blowout

This week, everybody who is anybody has started demanding a huge increase in government infrastructure spending to prevent the country from falling into recession.

Doesn't anybody have any idea how long it takes these days to get started on major infrastructure projects? I'm familiar with golf courses in California, which are pretty small potatoes, and yet they take 8 to 15 years of environmental and other hearings before any dirt gets turned.

Is the Democratic Congress really going to suspend the Environmental Protection Act and all the rest of the environmental impedimentia?

I do know of one current infrastructure project, however, that the government is currently piddling along on, doing a half-assed job, that it would make perfect sense to triple in size and go immediately to three shifts U.S.S. Yorktown-style: the Border Fence.

By the way, would it be too much to ask that jobs on these FDR-style public works projects be open only to American citizens?

We spent the first 8 years of this decade having foreign nationals build the exurbs of Las Vegas -- how's that working out for us lately?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...


I'll let the story speak for itself.

Anonymous said...

Replacement of existing deteriorating bridges shouldn't require too much environmental work, although I hope the engineering is thorough.

Superdestroyer said...


Has California even bothered to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the high speed rail plans in Prop 1A.

If California has not, it will be years before such a boondoggle will employ anyone other than lawyers, planners, and environmental consultants.

Anonymous said...

From James Howard Kunstler's site: "The new president will have to be Franklin Roosevelt on steroids, with some Mahatma Gandhi and Florence Nightingale thrown in. My pet project of restoring the American passenger railroad system might seem pretty minor in the face of all this, but it's at least a place to start that will accomplish several things: allow people and things to get places without cars and trucks; put many thousands of people to work at many levels doing something of direct, practical value; and be a small step in rebuilding confidence that we are a society capable of accomplishing something."

Anonymous said...

Isn't Kunstler the kook who thinks AND HOPES we've run out of oil - the guy who pines for a "great die-off"?

Is he related to the late William Kunstler, the communist lawyer?

These are the people we're urged to heed? They stink on ice.

Anonymous said...

The infrastructure debate has been quite silly. All of it seems to focus on upgrading and improving our current infrastructure for our current population. Fine. But have any of the candidates, elected officials, pundits considered the fact that our population is supposed to grow to 440 million by 2050, all by immigration??? This is why it is just so crazy to listen to these infrastructure debates. Also, as the population increases, it becomes more amd more expensive to buy the land that the state needs to improve and expand capacity. I just can't believe not a single mainstream pundit has considered this....

J said...

Building a long border barrier is not an expensive infrastructure project. Here in Israel, the Army was charged with carrying out the job when terrorists were blowing up daily in Tel Aviv bars, and all budgetary, environmental and bureaucratic restrictions were lifted. An interministerial anti-red-tape commission was set up, that was never active as the Army ignored red tape. The project was finished in no time but since then there are unending legal processes because part of it is in private land, or obstaculizes the mating habits of some field rat, or it just ruins the view of the Samaritan mountains. I think about 20 - 30% has been moved once or more. Conclusion: In civil engineering projects, there is no way to avoid planning and permitting. Instead, every city and department has many projects in their archives that were fully designed but never budgeted. California water recycling system is one of those project, it needs a few billions to get started.

Anonymous said...

Is a border fence the most cost-effective way to cut down on illegal immigration?

The problem with a border fence is that it needs constant patrolling. The nearest analogy I can think of was the inner German border; in addition to fences, minefields, and vehicle traps, the East Germans manned it with about 800 men/mile. At the same force density, that works out to be 160,000 men for the US/Mexico border. If border security operations cost as much per man as our Iraq misadventure, the cost would be around $500 billion/yr to stop roughly 5 million illegal immigrants. That would be about $100,000 per prevented illegal immigrant.

Instead of trying to stop the supply, it strikes me we could get a bigger bang for the buck by drying up demand. If Tyson, IBP, and other companies that knowingly hire illegals with false work permits are fined, and their managers spend time in prison, other companies would be much less likely to hire illegals, at far less cost to the US taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

I wish Kunstler would shut up or die so that the benefits of passenger rail could be discussed without the intrusion of his hateful kookiness.

Anonymous said...

"David said...

Isn't Kunstler the kook who thinks AND HOPES we've run out of oil - the guy who pines for a "great die-off"?"

James Kunstler had a few good points. His criticism of modern architects and their monstrous, soul-crushing creations is, in my opinion, dead on. He also indentified what we now see to have been a very troubling development - that a great deal of our economy is based on never-ending suburban expansion - a fundamentallly unsustainable situtation.

However, now he has become a shrill and self-important booster of his own brand, and of the useless, destructive democratic party and their sham-messianic nominee.

He decries the bailout and the boys on wall-street, without recognizing that the bailout was most strongly pushed by his party, and that most of the I-bankers he has demonized are democrats too.

He viscerally hates white blue-collar people in general, and southerners in particular. And he foolishly imagines them to be constitutionally unready for the near civil war he sees coming - as if his whiter-people yuppie friends would be able to cope. Yeah, right.

And while he decries the expansion of people into suburbia, he has never asked why they did so. Does he imagine they are just stupid (yeah, he probably does). He never stops to think that they may have had a reason for leaving the inner-city, a reason that he is loathe to consider (although he has come close to mentioning it once or twice). A reason that he could put a name to, if spent some time reading Steve's work.

But he won't. Mr. Kunstler is smarter than all of us. And he's a very important man. Just ask him. If his agent will condescend to relay your message to him.

Anonymous said...

Mr. anon,
I agree with you. Kunstler does have some very valid points on modern architects and well, modern culture in general for that matter. I've read some of his writings and some of them are quite conservative in many respects. However, he can't quite understand why so many middle class people moved out of cities like East Orange, NJ and Newark, NJ in the mid and late 1960s. I do suspect he thinks they are just stupid. However, in reality, that is the furthest from the truth. My best friend's father, who is now in his mid-50s, grew up in East Orange, NJ and he along with all of the other white residents moved out in the late 1960s due to the escalating race violence. I've spoken with him many times about this and he says it kills him to see how East Orange went fom a city of beautiful architecture (you have to see pictures of it from the first half of the 20th century) to essentially a cesspool. But of course Mr. Kunstler would never touch upon this in his writings. Nope, just like Bill Maher would say, declining public health, declining school test scores, premature births, its all the fault of the Christian conservatives and Nascar Dads. That's it. No one else. Move along, nothing to see here....

Anonymous said...

Japan and Germany have launched massive anti-recession programs. In Germany companies can write off equipment faster, homeowners are given tax breaks for introducing energy saving technologies, and the population can look at tax breaks to increase internal spending. Both countries suffer from the fact that export is a major source of income. Basically WWII destroyed the internal markets of both countries forcing them to export. So their internal markets are now external. Maybe these programs can help grow the internal market.
Infrastructure programs will not work as anti-recession methods. They are slow, very expensive and increasingly employ fewer people due to automation. In addition they usually invite corruption.

Tsoldrin said...

Here's an idea... open up the border area, which is some of the lowest valued land in the country - for obvious reason, to homesteading. In order to qualify for a homestead, you have to put up 500 yards of fence. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

I kind of like the idea of Mexicans building the border fence. Its cruel in a Chinese 'bill families of executed prisoners for the bullets' kind of way.

Yes, building a new road or rail line can take years, but that's because the landlords who must give up a right of way can drag out the eminent domain process. Local governments usually get the engineering and environmental work done up front and just bank the project until Uncle Sam comes around with his checkbook. There are tens of billions in infrastructure projects ready to go once the checks clear.

The House Transportation Committee issued a press release last week on this point--

"In January 2008, a survey of State Departments of Transportation by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (“AASHTO”) identified 3,071 ready-to-go highway and bridge projects with a total cost of $17.9 billion that could be under construction within 90-120 days.

Similarly, an October 2008 survey of public transportation agencies by the American Public Transportation Association identified 559 ready-to-go transit projects at a total cost of $8.03 billion.

And a recent survey by the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators identified $9.12 billion in ready-to-go Clean Water State Revolving Fund projects in 25 states that cannot be funded within existing appropriation levels..."

Anonymous said...

One small problem with the homesteading idea--

Most of the land on the border is already owned by private landowners. Before Uncle Sam can give away border land for homesteading, the Takings Clause obligates the government to reimburse the existing landowners.

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't anybody have any idea how long it takes these days to get started on major infrastructure projects?"

Steve -- they are mostly talking about repairing the EXISTING infrastructure rather than initiating a whole bunch of new projects. So your point is moot.

Anonymous said...

This week, everybody who is anybody has started demanding a huge increase in government infrastructure spending to prevent the country from falling into recession.

And we should do so - why? Who would fill these jobs? And even if you mandated they be filled with legal Americans, so what? The jobs those legal Americans left would just be filled by...you know who.

In my mind a recession is good for enforcement. Illegal Mexicans unable to find jobs will go home. To the extent they don't, pressure will build on the government to do something. If things get really bad we might see American parents pressing their teenagers to take on summer jobs and competing head-to-head with illegal Mexicans.

At the very least it would hold back the prospects of an amnesty, and give the emerging GOP minority a chance and an excuse to stand up for the working class voters they've abandoned.

Can I also say that it seems pretty insane to be taking on more public debt in order to combat a recession caused by too much debt? Pretty soon this dike will be made entirely of thumbs.

Anonymous said...

And if you are going to work on infrastructure projects, why not work on mass transit projects that will encounter minimal resistance from envirocommies, help reduce dependence on foreign oil and reduce our trade deficit, and actually benefit conservatives in the burbs who would have increased access to subsidized public transit? Voila! A project that benefits conservatives that Democrats would look like hypocrites for opposing.

Anonymous said...

James Howard Kunstler's biggest fiasco was his Y2K doomsdaying ego-trip. He's purged all references to it from his site but with a little cache-digging you can find it.

Two words: COMEDY GOLD!

Sebastian said...

Like Steve Funk said, there's plenty of overpasses, viaducts, potholed roads and the like that could easily be green-lighted provided the money is there.

Quercus has a killer point as well. If the GOP was as serious as curtailing illegal immigration as they were servicing the big business community, then we probably would have solved the problem during Bush I.

If the economy continues to spiral, which it will, then look for more Mexicans to go back home. If there's no money to be made, why stay? As we all know, but some of us are loath to admit, they're here for the money. Once they reach that goal, they go home.

Anonymous said...

As we all know, but some of us are loath to admit, they're here for the money. Once they reach that goal, they go home.

Uh, not once they've tated the sweet bosom of the welfare state through their anchor babies.

Wake up!