Monday, November 24, 2014

Repairing America

Use foreign aid $$s
To fix infrastructure


I heard on 60 Minutes last night (November 23, 2014) that roads, bridges, air ports, and sea ports are outdated, inefficient, and in many places down right dangerous.

According to the program, the infrastructure is supposed to be maintained and expanded by user fees - a/k/a taxes on fuel, airplane cruise ship, and train tickets, and cargo passing through air and sea ports; my list probably is NOT "all-inclusive."

Several of the people interviewed claimed that they had been promoting an increase in gasoline taxes for several years, but the cowardly congress - both houses - refused to bite the bullet and put forth bills to raise the federal gas tax.

The vehicle fuel tax currently stands at 18.4 cents/gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents/gallon for Diesel. (See How much tax do we pay on a gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel?.)

The push back is that a higher fuel tax would hurt low-income families. It also would raise the cost-per-mile to move freight from point to point.

There is an alternative

The U.S. government has an interactive page titled Foreign Assistance by Recipient Country that identifies where U.S. tax dollars are flowing.

Everyone knows that Israel, Egypt, and Jordan get the lion's share of the foreign aid budget. Cutting back on the dole for these three countries might be possible, but given those countries' neighbors, this might be short-sighted. Still, there are those in Israel, at least, who would gladly forego U.S. aid dollars, thinking in the end Israel would be stronger.

But how many people know that Saudi Arabia (!) is on the U.S. dole. Granted for only a pittance, a mere US$10,000.

Is it really necessary to give

  • Afghanistan more than $1.5 billion

  • Cambodia more than $78 million

  • Pakistan more than $861 million

  • Turkey nearly $5 million

None of the above are particularly "pro-U.S."

India, which is taking jobs away from Americans, only wants a tad less than $88.5 million.

Almost $113 million is requested for Vietnam, but Vietnam to the U.S. is like Israel to Germany; it's reparations.

I'm certain someone somewhere - probably at the State Department - can justify the billions going overseas, but maybe it's time to let someone else pick up some of the financial load. Russia wants to be a superpower again; does Putin have the rubles to spare (or is he willing to further deprive his own countrymen)? China is buying up everything everywhere; surely it can assume some of the world's welfare load.

Not only is the U.S. infrastructure falling apart, we have people who, because they lack jobs, are homeless, people who are hungry, people who are in dire need of medical attention (including a number of military veterans). We need training programs to train people for real jobs - jobs that will be created by repairing or replacing the aging infrastructure. Any person who can work, should work; if the person cannot work, we need to provide for that person; if the person will not work then let the person fend for him/herself.

The U.S. government was the "employer of last resort" during the Great Depression (thanks largely to Eleanor Roosevelt); given the condition of the country today - aging infrastructure coupled with unemployment - perhaps the Federal government should once again become the employer of last resort.

Pay for this by cutting the amount of foreign aid. (Yes, I know some of the foreign aid really is to prop up U.S. companies making military goods; "We'll give you "n" millions providing that you buy U.S. military gear with some of that money."

It may be selfish, but the U.S. needs to take care of the U.S. first; if it fails to do this, it will not be able to help others.

No comments: