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The Preparing for 21st Century Risks report, issued by the Alliance for American Manufacturing last week, recommends restoring America’s infrastructure lifelines:  its electrical grid, its public water and sewer systems, its railroads and dams. And doing it with American-manufactured steel and concrete, glass and aluminum – all American components and all American labor. The result would be a nation more capable of fending off and recovering from natural and man-made disasters. And it would be a nation with a stronger economy based on a solid manufacturing base.

It'€™s a damning report because it says America has endangered itself by allowing both its manufacturing sector and its infrastructure -- like dams, roads and bridges -- to deteriorate.

The report, Preparing for 21st Century Risks, issued by the Alliance for American Manufacturing last week, recommends a two-part solution. First is restoring America'€™s infrastructure lifelines:  its electrical grid, its public water and sewer systems, its railroads and dams. And second is doing it with American-manufactured steel and concrete, glass and aluminum -- all American components and all American labor.

The result would be a nation more capable of fending off and recovering from natural and man-made disasters. And it would be a nation with a stronger economy based on a solid manufacturing base.

The Preparedness report was written by two security experts. One is Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and first Assistant to the U.S. President for Homeland Security. The other is Robert B. Stephan, a former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection.

It discusses the danger of America's increasing dependence on foreign-made materials and supplies and concludes:

"The American way of life is dependent upon a vibrant economy, the existence of which is based upon a skilled work force, innovation and a world-class critical infrastructure. Much of this critical infrastructure is vulnerable to attack, catastrophic weather events and obsolescence and deterioration. Immediate national security, preparedness and economic needs require an equally strong domestic manufacturing base which, for many reasons, has eroded over the years."
Risks noted in the report, such as this year'€™s devastating forest fires and nearly nationwide drought, in addition to the constant threat of terrorism, coincidentally were echoed twice in New York Times stories last week.

The first story described infrastructure problems caused by triple-digit heat, difficulties that are expected to continue with sustained extreme weather. They included excessive temperatures in nuclear plant cooling pools, a train derailed by heat-kinked track and a taxiing jet mired in melted asphalt.

A second Times story revealed a 17-fold increase in cyber-attacks on U.S. infrastructure --€“ including public water systems and cell phone networks -- since 2009. Among the suspects are foreign nations.

The Preparedness report warns of depending on foreign sources for recovery:

". . .we can no longer rely on global suppliers --€“ many of whom may not have our best interests at heart at a time of crisis. . .or come to our rescue in the midst of an emergency."€
Critical to both psychological and physical recovery, it says:
"€œis a robust, diverse and resilient domestic manufacturing sector. In fact, there is a direct nexus between a strong domestic manufacturing sector and America'€™s ability to prevent, mitigate, recover from and rebuild quickly in the wake of catastrophic events."€
Ridge and Stephan devoted a whole section of the Preparedness report to the threats to dams and the nation'€™s water supply. These are vulnerable to both natural and terrorist-caused disasters. And they'€™re already in poor shape, receiving a D grade in a review by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Dams, the ASCE said, need more than $50 billion in repairs.

Refurbishing those dams and installing some anti-terrorism measures could provide significant employment, which would improve the American economy. That'€™s what happened with construction of the Hoover Dam beginning in 1931 during the Great Depression. For five years, the massive project employed thousands of workers desperate for jobs. Their labor has provided drinking and irrigation water and electricity to three states for three quarters of a century.

The Preparedness report notes, however, that because of the decline of American manufacturing, caused in large part by foreign competitors violating international trade regulations, some key components to build and repair dams and water systems are made almost exclusively overseas. The report says:

"Clearly, the extent of these offshore dependencies puts us in a much weakened position regarding overall water sector preparedness . . . In the aftermath of a disaster, we must do everything we can to get these critical systems back on line in safe fashion as quickly as possible. Again, a strong domestic manufacturing capacity comprises an extremely important part of this approach."
Republicans have stalled infrastructure construction and repair and ignored the nation's manufacturing decline. Their excuse is the deficit. That'€™s contrary to the successful actions the nation took during the Great Depression, including construction of the Hoover Dam, which provided jobs and stimulated economic development in Nevada, California and Arizona.

The ASCE recommended in 2009 that the nation invest $2.2 trillion to repair critical infrastructure. Americans want that work, with unemployment stuck at 8.2 percent. And America needs that economic development, with the economy growing at a paltry 1.5 percent in the second quarter.

It's never been cheaper for America to raise that money. Right now, as Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman points out, government bonds are paying minus .6 percent, meaning Americans will pay back less in interest and principal, adjusted for inflation, than investors put in.

It's easy for Congress to show it gives a damn about American security, the American economy and American manufacturing. All it takes is a vote to secure and upgrade a dam. And, you know, the rest of the nation'€™s infrastructure.


The report proposes an elegant solution: rebuild deteriorating infrastructure to create jobs, stimulate the economy and revitalize manufacturing.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So sorry (3+ / 0-)

    We're essentially printing money by the megaton and shipping it off to banks.  Nothing left over for anything useful.

  •  I haven't quite figured out how to say this, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    milkbone, cassandracarolina

    but what seems to have happened, under the what is sometimes called "financial engineering," is that much of our real economy has been turned into a virtual enterprise. In a sense, the only difference between the captains of finance playing with our currency and teenagers playing electronic games on their computers is that the latter know they are only playing games. The financial engineers think the virtual world they have created with our money is real.

    I'm tempted to call Wall Street esoteric, but that doesn't seem quite right.

    Year ago I pointed out the fallacy of mistaking the measuring stick (money) for the thing measured (the trade and exchange of goods and services). What I haven't figured out is how to convey the message that dollars are like inches and that the difference between the dollar and the Euro is like the difference between yards and meters.

    Why, for that matter, do we insist on keeping the inch and the yard?  Because some people think it gives them an advantage when producers have to conform to different standards of measurement.

    Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage". He's not into "catch and release."

    by hannah on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 07:24:41 AM PDT

  •  Sadly, I don't think we're even prepared for 20th (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    century risks (much less 21st century risks) given the deterioration of our roads, bridge, water and wastewater treatment systems, dams, electrical grid, and other infrastructure.

    Rebuilding these systems could create direct and indirect employment and provide lasting benefits to the next generations, while restoring pride and excitement across the country that we are "on the mend". Instead, we see politicians spending money on tanks and bombers that the Pentagon doesn't even want.

    Thanks for a good discussion. This is a topic that doesn't seem to get much coverage here.

    Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle. -- Woody Allen

    by cassandracarolina on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 07:54:40 AM PDT

    •  On industrial policy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There's not a lot of difference between the GOP and most of the Dems.  When you're watching a football game from endzone seats and the teams are playing near the other goal line all the time, it's hard to tell the players apart.

      Every once in a while MB does post about our non-existent industrial policy, though.

  •  Though I've written about this before (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TJ, OLinda, JonBarleycorn, Leo W Gerard

    I'll repeat for this diary.

    I have a friend from Germany, she is now a naturalized citizen and an American booster. She went to Home Depot and asked for help getting a shovel made in America. One after another made in China.

    She started complaining loudly and walking down the aisle pulling items out, made in China, made in China, ect. By now she had gathered a crowd and as she moved towards checkout she looked the people in the eye and asked them if they really thought they would have a job if it could be outsourced.

    She ended by walking out with nothing and (again) LOUDLY proclaimed "This place is nothing but a Chinese Distribution Center!"

    True that.

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 08:36:10 AM PDT

  •  While I appreciate Mr. Gerard's concern about our (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leo W Gerard

    country's failing infrastructure, I really think he needs to focus on holding onto the union jobs we have.  As we speak a steel company (RG Steel) that the United Steel Workers International helped create, has laid off over 4500 workers and is closing its doors.  Portions of the 3 plants are being sold to scrap dealers and those jobs are never returning.   RG steel was the 4th largest steel producer in the US.  

    The International Union has done nothing to protect to few jobs left.  They have continually signed off on wage and benefit and job cuts.  RG Steel was able to successfully petition the bankruptcy  courts for a 2 MILLION dollar payout for all of its executive team (9 VP's + the CEO) and the Union never said a word, even though this "team" was only in place for 9 months.

    And this is what will continue to hurt the Democratic Party.  As these very reliable Democratic voters continue to lose jobs, they become very easy targets to the Republican fear mongering tatics.  These men and women are scared, and feel hopeless.  They want someone to blame.  I believe this is a big reason the President continues to struggle with "working class" voters.  While the Republicans don't offer fixes, they offer targets to blame; minorities, liberals, enviromentalists.  They haven't seen any of the promises of "fixing infrastructure" lead to more jobs.  They see Democrats attempting to block drilling and pipelines that promise decent paying jobs that can't be "outsourced".

    I live in a very unionized part of the country that has been descimated by the loss of union manufacturing jobs.  We have always been the most loyal of Democrats and always voted for the Democratic Party, long before many realized how bad Republican policies were/are.

    As this base continues to shrink, be prepared for less support for those in the public sector.  When you have nothing, it becomes tough to support those you do.  I know and agree it's not fair or rational, but I've continued to see and hear it.

    We need the President and men like Leo Gerard to focus on keeping these jobs here and stopping men like Romney. But most importantly, creating policy that will improve these men's and women's lives.

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