Sunday, March 25, 2012

More disasters on the way as the 1% keep a tight rein on cash

I-35 bridge collapses
Not much has changed since the I-35 Minneapolis bridge collapsed five years ago with one exception----things have gotten worse.  The Minneapolis bridge was one of about 18,000 bridges around the country known as fracture-critical bridges.  This type of design has a characteristic that if "just one of its structural elements gives way, the whole bridge could fall" writes Bloomberg Business Week.  "They don't give any warning at the point of's sudden and catastrophic.", says University of Minnesota's Thomas Fisher. Thirteen people died and 145 were injured in the I-35 disaster.

This type of design needs constant inspections and repair which means money.  The problem, Business Week says, "funding for maintenance is drying up."  The bridges have a life span of about 50 years and a good safety record but they are nearing the end of their lives when inspections are crucial but money is being diverted for more pressing needs like predatory wars aimed at enriching the 1% and their investments abroad, the energy industry in particular.

I remember about 20 years ago when BW had a piece titled, America's third deficit or something like that. The concern back then was the social infrastructure of the country; the roads, bridges, railroads etc. The 1% are concerned about such things not so much due to safety and that ordinary people might die or be injured. Capitalism needs an efficient social infrastructure to facilitate production, to enhance its competitiveness with regards to its rivals.  Multiple deaths or damage is a danger in that a normally passive populace can be driven to activity, to social unrest through such catastrophes but the main concern is immediate profits.

Federal money for such infrastructure maintenance comes from the Highway Trust Fund which, "could run dry" by October says BW.  It's ironic that one of the reasons the fund is depleted is that one of its primary sources, fuel taxes have declined over the past three years as US motorists shift to more fuel efficient cars and change their driving habits due to the cost of gas. Obviously conservation is not profitable or desirable in a market economy.

So; funds are drying up that maintain the social infrastructure.  An infrastructure, we should remind ourselves, that is designed with capital accumulation in mind.  Nothing of this nature, housing, transportation, health care---anything, is designed and built without first and foremost determining how such activity will affect profit making, the investors.  The regents of the California University system are not investors, speculators, hedge fund managers and all sorts of coupon clippers without reason; education too is a business and the universities are primarily training grounds for the soldiers of the market place, the Ignatius Loyola's of capitalism. Plus, many of them like Dianne Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum get lucrative contracts maintaining the system for themselves and their friends.

I am not intending to go in to the net worth of these characters( Feinsteins is estimated at around $100 million) or to give alternative examples of fund availability.  We have given many such examples on this blog for our readers to use if they wish.  The point is that the problem is not "funds drying up" the problem is the allocation of funds and the priorities of capital.  It is the owners of capital along with their political representatives that decide how society's wealth is allocated.

The I-35 deaths, the Katrina disaster and the thousands of deaths that occur in the US due to the lack of decent affordable health care are not natural disasters; they are social disasters, a product of the market. The wealth of any society is a collective product. Surplus value has its source in the unpaid labor of the worker, capital is but past labor, dead labor.  It hasn't dried up.  It has been appropriated and misallocated.

Society needs new managers.

No comments: