Thursday, July 19, 2007

Whew...(wipes sweat from forehead) isn't terrorism

There is no reason to believe whatsoever that this is anything other than a failure of our infrastructure. NY Mayor Bloomberg

Yesterday, at around 6:00PM local time, an underground steam pipe exploded in Manhattan's east side, right near Grand Central Station. Officials, like Mayor Bloomberg, were quick to point out that the explosion was not caused by terrorists.

That's a load off our collective minds. Isn't it?

It isn't for me.

Why do the terrorists need to come over and blow us up when our infrastructure is rotting around our ears.

And how silly it seems to me to take comfort, as Mayor Bloomberg wishes you to do, that the explosion you hear in the distance, or the dam that burst flooding your property, or the extra distance you need to drive to go around a failing bridge, is not the result of terrorists but instead an effect of our failure to direct a portion of the huge investment flows that come to America towards rebuilding our infrastructure.

This isn't due to lack of knowledge. Almost 10 years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers assessed the nation's infrastructure with a letter grade of "D" one above failing. In 2001, they lowered the grade to "D+" and opined that the problems could be fixed at a cost of US$1.3T.

"The solutions to these problems involve more than money, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. America has been seriously under-investing in its infrastructure for decades and this report card reflects that," said ASCE President Robert W. Bein.

So, kowing what we knew in 2001, the national leadership decided to.....(drumroll please)....invade a few countries. The United States has spent about half of the US$1.3T cost estimate for an infrastructure upgrade blowing stuff (and people) up on the other side of the world.

Brad Setser at RGEMonitor recently blogged about China missing its opportunity to let the Yuan rise while domestic demand was so strong.

In the aftermath of 9/11 the world opened its heart and wallet to the United States.

I think we missed an opportunity as well.