A Crumbling Infrastructure

Between 1950 and 1970, the U.S. spent 3 percent of its gross domestic product maintaining America’s infrastructure; since 1980, the country has spent “well less than 2 percent,” according to a report by the New America Foundation. As the August collapse of Minneapolis’ Interstate 35W bridge reminds us, this backlog can have fatal consequences. While Iraq war appropriations exceed $456 billion, America’s highways, bridges, waste and water facilities, harbors, and airports are poorly maintained (and public education and affordable housing are seriously underfunded)—and predicted to become significantly more so by 2015.

3.5 million public housing units could be built with $456 billion.

27.1 percent of U.S. bridges are listed as structurally deficient or obsolete.

30 percent of annual highway fatalities result from inadequate roadway maintenance.

45,800 elementary schools could be built with $456 billion.

1 percent: amount that annual expenditures to maintain the U.S. power grid have decreased since 1992.

8 million public school teachers could be hired for one year with $456 billion.

Sources: “Ten Big Ideas for a New America” (New America Foundation, 2007); “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure 2005,” (American Society of Civil Engineers); the National Priorities Project; “The Bucks Never Stop: Iraq and Afghanistan War Costs Continue To Soar” (The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation).

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