Backward America

by Lou Binninger


You pay more than 100 different taxes each year with the understanding that government will take care of business.  In the post war 1950s through the 1970’s amazing modern cities, airports, roadways and water projects were developed preparing us for the future. The world was in awe of America.

However today, higher and higher taxes are demanded while Americans cope with crumbling bridges and roads.  Grass grows through neglected cracks in the streets and sidewalks while rubbish and derelicts are strewn everywhere. Sections of cities are abandoned and have the look of an urban combat zone.

It’s as if America fell asleep, woke up in a high tech world with a ruler in hand and pencil behind its ear. It went backwards while the rest of the world screamed forward.

Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore have transformed themselves from backward disease-laden Third World cities to ultra-modern high-tech manufacturing hubs with smooth, quick and clean under and above ground transport systems.

American airline companies cannot compete with the Asian carriers (Singapore, Asiana, Korean, EVA, ANA, Cathay) and their flyer-friendly and stylish comfortable airport hubs. Need a quick shower, want to see a free movie, hit the gym, get a massage, want a hotel room to relax in the terminal, it’s all there.

Want to get checked-in for an international flight minutes after entering the terminal, be treated with class and courtesy even in the cheap seats; that would be the Asian carriers.

Why can Americans no longer build and maintain infrastructure like European and Asian countries? Its simple, America is in shambles due to environmental activists and labor unions.

Take the Keystone Pipeline designed to bring oil into US refineries from Canada. Piping is much more efficient and safer than other modes of transport (rail cars and trucks), but irrational environmentalists get hives when fossil fuels are even whispered though they benefit from them every day. They scream this pipeline would be a national disaster while other pipelines safely crisscross the US.

Keystone has cleared environmental review two times by liberal administrations (Hillary Clinton 2011, John Kerry 2014) but has been marooned for ten years due to adversarial legalism. In 2018, Obama appointee Montana Judge Brian Morris halted the construction for the third time after President Trump gave it the go ahead.

This legal harassment shows up on every project with 50,000 federal environmental reviews and thousands more state and local studies every year. A dredging project in Oakland harbor started in the 1970’s was not completed till the 1990’s. Four challenges delayed a water desalinization plant for 12-years and added hundreds of millions to the cost in arid San Diego County after it was proposed in 2003.

Raising the existing New Jersey Bayonne Bridge was delayed 5-years with 20,000 pages of review documents. The bridge would simply allow bigger ships to pass beneath.

European and Asian projects are proposed, financed and finished in the time Americans take to do their environmental review and the foreign projects are much cheaper to build.

A 2011 study by Israeli mathematician Alon Levy found that a mile of subway tract in Continental Europe or Japan costs $200-$450 million. Vancouver, Canada’s new line (40% underground) cost $130 million a mile in a densely populated area. London’s extension of The Tube came in at $640 million.

In New York City, the Second Avenue Subway, a two mile extension of an existing line took 10 years and $2.4 billion per mile. NY’s East Side Access Project will cost $3.5 billion per mile or 7 times the average cost of other cities worldwide. The project started in 2007 and will finish in 2022 or maybe 2030 if green activists are lucky.

Why so expensive? Enter the labor unions whose motto should be “work slowly and charge more, a lot more.” Sometimes they are even paid to not work. The Sandhogs Union in NY charges $111 per hour according to a NY Times investigation. Combine that with this fact – the same task accomplished in Madrid, Spain with 8 workers takes 24 in NY.

An investigation of NY’s East Side Access construction found that roughly 200 of the 900 workers on the underground project were being paid to do nothing.   In Boston, the Green Line Extension Project is set to cost $530 million per mile and it’s all above ground.

What is the result of all this? Americans are living in a 20th Century infrastructure world. We can’t build a 21st Century version. The unions and environmentalists forbid it.

(Get Lou’s podcast at “No Hostages Radio” and his articles at

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