I never thought I'd see the day when it would be considered good news that a part of New York City was paralyzed, only one person died and there doesn't seem to be any asbestos floating around in the air as a result. (Or maybe not.) The problem is that it is actually very bad news and not just because of the death but because it is a sign of the rapidly decaying infrastructure that has been ignored during the conservative era in favor of free-market religion and the wonder-working powers of tax cuts.
Wednesday, in New York, a pipe installed in 1924 finally gave way and ended up killing someone. Imagine that. They built things to last in those days, but I doubt anyone ever dreamed that they would have to last for nearly a century.
Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls "E. coli conservatism" for a while over at his blog the Big Con, where, among other things, he's chronicling the increasing incidence of ... sinkholes. That's right, these days it's quite common to be driving or walking along a street in Anytown USA and be suddenly sucked into the ground because of the neglected infrastructure of our towns and cities. You can read about it in local papers every day. Wednesday he wrote:
We've warned here again and again about the decrepitude of our underground infrastructure, about what happens when a nation consecrates itself to no higher domestic goal than the cutting of taxes. New York had a Republican mayor, in fact, who now spends his days boasting that he cut taxes 23 times. Cut spending, too, he's proud to say.
This is the legacy of the past 25 years of neglect. We shouldn't be relieved when we see a huge cloud of smoke and dust and find that it isn't "terrorism." It's a warning as important as a magenta terror alert or the rumblings of Michael Chertoff's gut. There is a price to pay for this free lunch the conservatives have been selling for the past 30 years and the bill is coming due.
Watch your step.