“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, issued every four years by the American Society of Civil Engineers is out, and the U.S. gets a D+. Not a failing grade to be sure, although hardly confidence-inspiring, it represents a slight decline from the gentleman’s C issued in 1988 and a slight improvement from the D that Barack Obama inherited in 2009. Still, “our nation’s infrastructure is aging, underperforming, and in need of sustained care and action,” concluded the report, which measures the conditions of 11 infrastructure systems, from Airports to Water/Wastewater. The highest grade – and only B – went to rail transportation, while our roads have gone from a C+ to a D, and our drinking water from a B- to a D. Meanwhile, the cost to improve the system has risen from $1.3 trillion in 2001 to $4.59 trillion today, which is about a quarter of our total gross domestic product.

I searched in vain for a wall category, which has become such a critical infrastructure need that the president is threatening to shut down the government if Congress won’t fund it – presumably as an advance until Mexico comes up with the money.

Border Fence, El Paso, 2007

But here’s a tidbit: more Mexicans are going back to Mexico than are coming here. So do we need a wall to keep them out? Or is this a plot to keep in people who have long harvested our crops, tended our gardens, and cared for our children, keeping wages down and productivity up?

I’ll leave that to the conspiracy buffs, but with a crumbling infrastructure in need of $4.59 trillion in repairs, a wall seems pretty low on the list.

James G. Blaine

About James G. Blaine

Most of us undervalue what seem our tiny contributions to our communities and the world. As a result, we feel powerless, even victimized. But, like the butterfly effect in science, the lives we lead with our families, in our communities, and at work – all the so-called little things we do – collectively change the world. As I grow older, my ambition grows more modest but not less important: to participate fully and to contribute what I can. That’s my goal with this blog.