The Wall St J article below outlines a huge neglected trend. 
When I socked it to a Calif citizen, this exch was provoked:-

>  > The access street and the street in front of our house [Los 
>Gatos, Ca] are falling apart with potholes for the longest time. 
> Repair is based on the squeaky wheel syndrome.  You and I argue 
>about what is the correct level of economic intrusion of the 
>government in our lives. Moreover, entitlements are growing 
>exponentially with automatic cost of living adjustments and 
>expansion of programs by government

>...left AND right!!

	Now you're cooking with gas  (as W Graham used to say).  I 
have maintained lo, these 3 decades, that the overarching problem is 
big bureaucracies.  Capitalism & communism have both suffered from 
this phenomenon  -  communism more, but now capitalism is allowing 
some nasty transnational gangs undue influence.

>Recall my retort about the daily divisive issues and... "We still 
>can't get the potholes fixed!!"

	If you can score some scraps of asphalt from some dig-up, and 
slap them in a big drum over an LPG burner, you might fill them 
yourself  -  in a gentle wind, and stand upwind of volatiles from the 
hot tar.

>  I had a little sense of that in New Zealand when we were there, but 
>could not determine the level of waste (or monetary diversion, if 
>you will) such as exist in this country.

	An honest comparison will not be done by Ernst & Young LLC, 
or by any other agency.

Am copying this little exch to a few friends concerned about the USA.
	A Princeton prof said to me in 1983 that I understand the USA 
better than any other foreigner he'd met.  To that I can only add 
that it's harder to understand today, as more inchoate power-plays  - 
Pelosi, H Rodham, gangs of hatemongering perverts,  etc  -  shatter 
the society away from any cohesive path.  And they have cowed almost 
all citizens, without the inelegant brutalities of Heydrich et al 
c.1932.  These are the gentle, caring Narzees!  They are so 
preoccupied with ideological campaigns, affirmative action, etc, that 
the crumbling of public property is of little concern to them.


>a sober society would take heed
>By Thaddeus Herrick
>     Wall Street J
>May 9, 2007
>Airports, roads, rail, bridges and other transit infrastructure are 
>deteriorating across the U.S. because of insufficient investment, 
>according to a report.
>Chicago needs $6 billion to bring its subways into good repair, says 
>the report to be released today by the Urban Land Institute and 
>Ernst & Young LLP.  Rehabilitation or replacement of the Tappan Zee 
>Bridge north of New York City could cost as much as $14.5 billion. 
> And in Atlanta, current rush-hour trips by car could take 75% 
>longer by 2030.
>The report, entitled "Infrastructure 2007: A Global Perspective," 
>says the failure to address what the co-authors call an emerging 
>crisis in mobility will undermine the ability of the U.S. to compete 
>internationally.  "At some point, the system is going to grind to a 
>halt," says Dale Ann Reiss, global director of real estate at the 
>New York-based Ernst & Young accounting firm and vice chairman of 
>the Urban Land Institute, a land-use think tank in Washington.
>More foreboding, the report warns that further inaction will lead to 
>disasters on the magnitude of the levee failures in Hurricane 
>The report underscores the broader disrepair of transit, power and 
>water systems in the U.S. In 2005, the American Society of Civil 
>Engineers graded as "poor" the condition of the nation's transit 
>infrastructure as well as power grids, dams and systems for drinking 
>water and wastewater.  The U.S. faces a $1.6 trillion deficit in 
>needed infrastructure spending through 2010 for repairs and 
>maintenance, today's report says.
>A lack of political will because of fear of raising taxes is mainly 
>responsible for the shortfall, the report says. It predicts an array 
>of higher taxes but also says help is needed from the private sector 
>and public-private partnerships, which it predicts will help fund, 
>construct, operate and manage transit projects. Investment funds 
>sponsored by global investment banks, private-equity firms and 
>institutional money managers are becoming a rapidly expanding source 
>of capital for everything from toll roads to bridges to tunnels, 
>especially in Europe and the United Kingdom, the report says.
>"We have a lot to learn from other parts of the world," says Ms. 
>Reiss, who is to present the study at an Urban Land Institute 
>meeting in Chicago. The U.S. encourages automobile dependency, 
>according to the report, while a number of other countries are 
>pursuing transportation alternatives.  The report says there were 
>more than 750 cars per 1,000 people in the U.S. as of 2000, while 
>the number was just over 500 cars per 1,000 in the U.K.  No amount 
>of investment will be adequate if driving continues to be the only 
>practical transportation option in the U.S., the report says.
>Meanwhile, Japan has 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) of high-speed 
>rail and is building 300 additional kilometers by 2020, the study 
>says.  China is building more than 2,500 kilometers. The U.S. has 
>only 300 kilometers of high-speed rail and none under construction. 
> The cost for the U.S. to catch up: at least $250 billion over the 
>next 20 years.
>The study urges leaders and planners to reconsider the way U.S. 
>cities are built, with hub-and-spoke systems to better handle mass 
>transit.  It also suggests infill housing and mixed-use development 
>to reduce dependence on cars, especially in Sun Belt cities such as 
>Houston, where the average commuter already drives 39 miles a day.
>Some states are taking action. California, for example, passed a $37 
>billion state public-works bond measure last year, earmarking $20 
>billion for transport, $10 billion for school construction, $4 
>billion for levees and $3 billion for affordable housing built near 
>mass transit.  As a result, though, about 6% of the state's 
>general-fund tax revenues will be needed to pay debt service, a 
>relatively high level.
>Not surprisingly, the greatest action is occurring in emerging 
>economies.  Annually, China spends 9% of its gross domestic product 
>on infrastructure, while India spends 3.5%, the report says.  While 
>the U.S. doesn't face such massive infrastructure buildup, it still 
>needs to spend more on maintenance. It spends just 0.93% of its GDP, 
>or $112.9 billion, according to the study.

States Network, May 10, 2007


By J. Mijin Cha

A major new 
released this week by the Urban Land Institute
and Ernst & Young revealed shocking statistics on the state of transit
infrastructure in the U.S., including:

* 83 percent of the nation's transportation infrasturcture is not
capable of meeting the nation's needs over the next 10 years.

* 97 percent of roads, bridges and tunnels, and 88 percent of
transit/rail systems will require at least moderate improvement.

* Chicago alone needs $6 billion to bring its subways into good
repair. Rehabilitation of the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York
City will cost as much as $14.5 billion.

* There is a $1.6 trillion deficit in needed infrastructure spending
through 2010 for repairs and maintanence.

A Threat to Economic Growth

Beyond the inconvenience of longer commute times due to poor upkeep of
roads and transit systems, these numbers signal real economic trouble.
The loss in time and productivity will slow economic growth, drive job
losses, and result in the U.S. becoming less economically competitive

Around the world, our economic competitors are investing heavily in
infrastructure to strengthen their economies, yet the U.S is spending
less than 1 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. Contrast that with
India, which spends 3.5 percent on infrastructure, or China, which
spends 9 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure in
its quest for economic growth.

The U.S. infrastructure neglect is not limited just to transit. In
order to comply with safe drinking water regulations, the U.S. must
spend ten times its current budget for replacing aging systems. The
power grids are also a mess and poor transmission networks are
resulting in loss of electricity and extremely inefficient power

The False Promise of Privatization

The report emphasizes that the recent hype around privatization of
public assets like roads won't solve the problem-- and could make it
worse. Another 
report released this week, also highlights how
states have been wasting taxpayer money by outsourcing and
experimenting with other forms of privatization that have just added
to costs.

Looking Forward

There is simply no way around it -- the current level of
infrastructure investment cannot sustain current economic activity,
let alone allow our states to grow competitively in the global
economy. Any further delay investing in infrastructure will only
result in much greater physical repair costs and even greater costs
from job losses.

The first step is facing up to the need for new revenue. The reality
is that the gas tax, when adjusted to inflation, is half of what it
was in the 1960s. Road tolls aren't paying enough for overall
infrastructure upkeep and other revenues are not making up the slack.
New revenues need to be combined with better planning to reduce road
congestion and promote more efficient public transit.

>  The issue here is that the surveys show that public sector 
>employees at all levels are earning about 2x the equivalent private 
>sector employee

	I'd need proof before believing that.
	Just this wk the business crowd have been claiming that NZ 
salaries public/private have got out of kilter.  They didn't claim 
anything so implausible as 2x, but did assert the public jobs have 
crept ahead.  I don't believe it.
	I too have been grappling with local-body road & footpath 
'engineering'.  In my district, asphalt footpaths which had become 
dangerous (mainly from tree roots cracking & bulging them) have just 
been dug up and replaced with concrete.

>and have the added benefit of nearly lifetime employment.

	Decreasingly so  -   more & more are on brief contracts, 
outsourced from Optis Consultants or suchlike.