image THINKING FROM A RINO, PART II/ DISCUSSION ON U.S. INFRASTRUCTURE

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Being a fiscal conservative does not equal being anti-government. As a realist, I recognize that we as an American  community rely on entities such as a fire stations staffed with firemen; law enforcement offices and officials to enforce the legislated rules; schools; our national parks; military for the defense of our country, drivers’ license offices; passport offices; record keeping offices; offices to issue birth, marriage and death certificates; the FBI; NSA; CDC; CIA; IRS; FEMA; Judicial oversight; prisons; Homeland Security; VA operations and Social Security offices. The list  continues and is lengthy. Unlike the tea party motto of “No Government,” and “no new taxes,” I just want the taxes that I pay to the government to be efficiently allocated with sufficient reviews and accountability to prevent  wasteful distribution of funds towards services which are not essential and which do not have adequate procedures in place to prevent fraud, mistakes, contracting overruns; duplicate and overlapping services. In short, as a taxpayer, I want my government to work competently and efficiently.

I do not want to read headlines that the VA hospital project in Aurora, CO has exceeded the original budget to build by one billion dollars. I do not want to see our President being caught by surprise as when the Obama Care roll out ended up being a disaster and then the computer system took months to fix so that American consumers could begin to sign up for health care coverage.

Then I hate reading 12/25/14 WSJ stories like this:

“John and David Mkhitarian found a soft spot in Medicare’s defenses against fraud: Inspectors aren’t required to visit medical providers deemed to present a lower risk of fraud and abuse.”

“So the cousins used exchange students to create some 70 bogus laboratories, clinics and physician practices, then enrolled the companies in the program with the stolen identities of doctors, prosecutors assert. Medicare paid out $3.3 million over about two years.”

My opinion is that it shouldn’t take years of cost overruns, poor delivery and dismal service before  government officials figure out that there needs to be a better system implemented to select government contractors, not just based on low ball bids, but based also on consideration of their reputation, track record, proficiency and competency before any contractor is hired. There should also be penalties applied for contractors’ poor performance. As regards to Medicare mistakes and fraud being discovered at an early stage, the government personnel should institute the same computer system that my banks use. If anything suspicious  occurs with any of my bank accounts, I get a call from the bank inquiring about any unusual purchases. Why isn’t Medicare set up with a similar system to uncover any unusual activity?

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I selected a case in point to prove my point that nothing gets accomplished without the tea party support. There is the need to  improve  our US infrastructure. In the past, this has been a nonpartisan issue. Even today, both the left and the right side of the congressional aisle, big business and the general public, all agree that updating our infrastructure is necessary but still, little is being accomplished regarding this issue because of the tea party strangle hold in congress which is preventing any smart investment spending.

Yet, one of the most basic requirements that we count on the government to deliver on behalf of the taxpaying public is the updating and maintaining of our infrastructure for our safety and for our being in a competitive position when compared to other countries.

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Like many Americans, I am tired of streets with potholes; reading about taxpayers being without power for multiple days because  of something like a snow storm and that our broadband capacity is ranked 26th when compared to other countries.

What I definitely would never want to see again is another Hurricane Katrina which is the perfect example of our government failing to deliver adequate services for the average American taxpayer.

Remember the horror  stories of the New Orleans’ levees and the devastation which were caused because they had not been adequately updated and maintained. While the tea party folks say, no new taxes, no matter what, I argue that not investing in our infrastructure including levees for the past few years while the interest rates have been so low; when Americans including our Veterans have been desperate for good paying jobs and when most financial experts assert that the return on this investment would pay huge future dividends, borders on criminal neglect by our legislators.

The  ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) have issued a US report card grade of D+ on our overall infrastructure for the year 2013 but the GPA for our levees is D-. The ASCE estimated investment needed to adequately update our overall infrastructure by 2020 is $3.6 Trillion.

Here is the ASCE status account of our levees: “The nation’s estimated 100,000 miles of levees can be found in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Many of these levees were originally used to protect farmland, and now are increasingly protecting developed communities. The reliability of these levees is unknown in many cases, and the country has yet to establish a National Levee Safety Program. Public safety remains at risk from these aging structures, and the cost to repair or rehabilitate these levees is roughly estimated to be $100 billion by the National Committee on Levee Safety. However, the return on investment is clear – as levees helped in the prevention of more than $141 billion in flood damages in 2011.”

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ASCE Conclusion

“Infrastructure is the foundation that connects the nation’s businesses, communities, and people, driving our economy and improving our quality of life. For the U.S. economy to be the most competitive in the world, we need a first class infrastructure system – transport systems that move people and goods efficiently and at reasonable cost by land, water, and air; transmission systems that deliver reliable, low-cost power from a wide range of energy sources; and water systems that drive industrial processes as well as the daily functions in our homes. Yet today, our infrastructure systems are failing to keep pace with the current and expanding needs, and investment in infrastructure is faltering.”

“We must commit today to make our vision of the future a reality – an American infrastructure system that is the source of our prosperity.”

Budgets Represent Priorities (3/19/15 ASCE update) by Peter Nonis

“(Republican) budget proposals (for 2016) offer some insight into what transportation funding levels might look like in the coming year. Disappointing for transportation was that both the House and Senate budgets assumed that road, bridge and transit spending would be limited to incoming revenues to the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). This is a problem as the HTF has been facing fiscal pressure over the years and is forecast to require $13 billion in additional revenues in FY16 just to maintain current spending levels. Which is why ASCE supported a House Budget Committee amendment by Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) that would have maintained current spending levels for surface transportation. Unfortunately, the amendment failed in committee by a vote of 14-22.”

Tea-Party-Recipe

“The debate over the last few days (March 2015) on the budget has crystallized one key fact on transportation spending: the vast majority in Congress believe that we should be investing more in transportation but there is not yet widespread bipartisan consensus on exactly how to pay for it.”

Key Points From The ASCE Report   Card For US Infrastructure (US received a grade of D+:

“Aging infrastructure and congestion at our nation’s marine ports, inland waterways, and airports makes shipping more expensive, increasing the cost of goods. ASCE’s report, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Airports, Inland Waterways, and Marine Ports Infrastructure finds that these costs reverberate through the economy, causing exports and GDP to fall, ultimately threatening more than 1 million U.S. jobs and causing a drop in personal income.

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With adequate investment, we can ensure that America remains competitive in the global marketplace, keep domestic business running efficiently, and maintain a lower cost of goods for consumers.”

“Costs attributable to airport congestion will rise from $24 billion in 2012 to $34 billion in 2020. With additional investment of a total of $18.9 billion by 2020, plus the development of NextGen, the U.S. can protect:

  • $54 billion in exports
  • $313 billion in GDP
  • 350,000 jobs
  • $361 billion in personal income, or $320 per year for households.”

“Costs attributable to delays in the nation’s inland waterways system were $33 billion in 2010, and it is expected to increase to nearly $49 billion by 2020. With an additional investment of $15.8 billion between now and 2020, the U.S. can protect:

  • $270 billion in U.S. exports
  • $697 billion in GDP
  • 738,000 jobs annually
  • $872 billion in personal income, or $770 per year for households.”

5 comments

  1. Your case on Medicare, not a bad one yet Medicare has the lowest fraud incident. Welfare (WIC) also very low. We focus constantly on these, yet comparatively the incident of fraud within these programs is overall very low. I would agree with you, I would love to see the services delivered more efficiently, with better outcomes yet the GOP continues to focus on them as if they burden to our budget is breaking the nation. It isn’t.

    What breaks the bank is war and the inflated national defense budget. This isn’t the Tea Party, this is the entire GOP.

    What breaks the bank is corporate subsidies, unnecessary to the wealthiest corporations in the world yet we continue to provide welfare to those who do not need it and take way help from those who do.

    What breaks the bank is the outsourcing of jobs to nations with no rules and low wages. Breaking of the unions, destruction of the manufacturing base, destruction of middle class through both in-sourcing and outsourcing. Yet no one is talking about that.

    What breaks the bank is destabilization of the banks and banking rules.

    I could go on. The free market isn’t free if everyone can’t participate. Trickle down doesn’t work, fifty years of this nonsense has proven it.

    • I couldn’t agree more. For Medicare. it is the GAO that is focusing on companies/ systems that manage Medicare payments. A 8/14/14 Modern Healthcare blog by Bob Herman, is titled, “GAO finds Medicare’s audit contractors may duplicate efforts,”

      He writes: “.Before legislators left for the August recess, Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, released a draft bill to improve Medicare’s compliance and audit programs. Obsidian’s Evans said one of the main provisions affecting hospitals in the Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act of 2014 would be a shift away from the current “pay-and-chase” auditing system, to one in which contractors would review Medicare claims before they were paid.”

      Focusing on government programs without first dealing with corporate subsidies is the height of hypocrisy by both republicans and democrats. Any company that gets a tax break, it should be for creating jobs in the USA as well as implementing additional hiring and training of Americans. Tax breaks should be for those businesses which are good USA community citizens and which are dealing with tangible goods and services but not for peoples moving monies and papers around to earn increases on betting on the markets without producing one extra job or benefit for US general public/ consumer.

      It is disconcerting to me to read about republican legislators voting down “snap” in the farm bill when they are collecting government subsidies for their own farms.

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