Quick Thought on Infrastructure

I just wanted to throw out some thoughts on one (of many) paragraphs from President Obama’s State of the Union I have some concerns about. Maybe I’ll do this from time to time.

Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

I’ve traveled a lot, and while our infrastructure has its problems (whose doesn’t?) there are a lot of things we do really well. At the end of every trip, whether it’s to France, England, Spain, or Germany, I’ve always thought our infrastructure is better. But there’s probably some confirmation bias going on there.

First, the President compares the speed, presumably, of internet access in South Korea to the United States. Bad comparison.

Comparing size, South Korea is puny compared to the United States. It is 38,691 square miles in area. That is just a little bit bigger than the state of Maine.

(AK, HI, not to scale.)

Population wise, South Korea is huge. Its population is bigger than California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico combined. All living in a space the size of Maine. Of course, their internet connection might be faster per capita than ours because we have a significantly larger country to connect to the internet. That’s why I think it’s a bad comparison.

The President continues by saying: “Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do.” Well, here we don’t know if he’s talking about individual countries or the countries’s collective spending. But ‘investing more’ is not the same as having better roads.

China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

This one is actually easy to connect. The President is referring to the American Society of Civil Engineers 2009 report, which gave us a D. So a group of people, whose job is to build things for the public, is saying we’re doing a bad job. Gee. I wonder why?

In other news, Jiffy Lube called and they said you really should change your car’s oil more often. Got it checked last month? Oh, well. Can’t hurt to get it checked again.

But at the end of that report, I see this:

In addition to having such bad infrastructure, which curiously we always seem to have, they think we can “improve” it by spending, say… $2.2 trillion dollars. A good round number.

So, while I have friends who are engineers I trust, I expect engineers will always have tons of ideas of things we can spend trillions of dollars on.

How we get as many high-speed rail tracks going as a communist country that doesn’t respect property rights (China) and offers little remedy for citizens in the case of eminent domain, I am not sure. Whether newer airports always equal better airports, I’m not sure, either.

But, I can tell you that I’m happy Ohio refused the “high speed rail” project, if you consider 38.5 miles per hour high speed.

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