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It’s Time to Rebuild America—Literally

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It’s Time to Rebuild America—Literally

It’s campaign season with a vengeance, and candidates are discussing their plans for improving America. 

What many voters should realize, however, is that America needs more than rebuilding in mere metaphor.

 

America’s Roads are in Terrible Shape

In its last report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s roads a D. 

It estimated that wasted time and fuel from over-congestion were costing the United States’ Economy $101 billion per year.

The actual physical state of some roads are terrible too, as any casual observer can tell you. 

They are full of bumps and potholes that can cause damage to cars and loss of driver control. 

Many have dangerously-faded markings that open motorists up to misunderstandings and accidents.

 

America’s Bridges are also in Terrible Shape

The ASCE gave bridges a slightly better grade— a C+. 

It also estimated that 1 in 9 of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient. 

Structurally deficient bridges pose serious safety issues as a bridge collapse is highly likely to lead to fatalities.

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A Selection of Other Infrastructure Elements as Graded by the ASCE:

  • Drinking Water: D
  • Aviation: D
  • Rail:  C+
  • Transit:  D
  • Energy:  D+

 

Our infrastructure is in shambles right now.

Bridges are falling apart, airports are inefficient, public transit barely exists in small towns, and even clean drinking water is no longer a guarantee.  School teachers use their income to buy needed supplies for students.

 For an arguably rich, First-World nation, we’re flunking in a lot of ways right now.

 

So Why Aren’t We Fixing It?

There is no easy answer, but it mostly comes back to money. 

Both maintenance and new projects are getting more expensive—so much so that current funding can’t keep up. 

Although the government was spending 44 percent more on infrastructure in 2014 than in 2003, that money lost purchasing power—9 percent worth—over that same stretch of time.

American roadway projects lack funding due to the ailing Highway Trust Fund. 

For two decades, Congress has refused to raise the gasoline tax which funds it. 

In fact, certain states have taken matters into their hands and raised gas taxes themselves to pay for road improvements.

 

Speaking of Which, States Can Either Help or Hinder the Process of Maintenance and Repair

As stated above, some states are realizing that the Federal Government is not going fix their roads, so they are beginning to do it themselves. 

Other states, however, divert funds intended for roads to other places in order to balance their overall budget.

Clearly, the states alone cannot handle the current shortfall in and of themselves.

 

The Three Big Presidential Candidates All Have Plans for Infrastructure

Their solutions just differ in scope and specificity. 

All of them endorse pouring money into America’s wounded infrastructure. 

They even seem to have the same basic concepts in mind, though their proposed executions differ.

 

Bernie Sanders Wants to Bolster the System with $1 trillion in Funding

He holds that this would bring the United States at least 13 million new project-related jobs that absolutely could not be outsourced. 

Inasmuch as it would both bring improvements to the infrastructure and jobs to the unemployed, his plan very much resembles FDR’s New Deal.

He claims to have already worked out enough ways to cut corporate tax dodging to fund at least half of this plan.

 

Hilary Clinton, on the Other Hand, Promises $275 Billion in Funds

While her funding proposal would stretch out over a five-year period, Hillary Clinton too wants to increase spending on infrastructure, paying for it with business tax reform. 

Again, the plan resembles the New Deal in that it would create a number of jobs which would theoretically be middle-class. 

However, she would also create a national infrastructure bank with $25 billion in funds to support infrastructure investment.

The bank would work with the private sector and renew and expand the Build America Bonds program.

 

Donald Trump is Confident he’s the Guy for the Job.

Trump realizes America’s infrastructure is failing and is confident he can fix it.

He says, “If we do what we have to do correctly, we can create the biggest economic boom in this country since the New Deal when our vast infrastructure was first put into place.”

He has not disclosed a specific plan, but has said the project will be a trillion dollar rebuilding plan which will create 13 million jobs. 

 

The Situation is Far from Hopeless, But America Does Have Her Work Cut Out for Her

Like any bad report card, the ASCE’s ratings should be looked at as a challenge to work on problem areas and do better. 

Yes, the infrastructure is in a bad place right now. 

America as a nation has to work on fixing it.

All three presidential candidates have ideas and solutions in mind. 

Any one of their solutions—while bearing a price tag—would have the silver lining of creating tons of jobs for American workers. 

And they are far from the only ones thinking about the problem.

 

Conclusion

As long as we continue to look for solutions, the money sink that U.S. infrastructure has become does not have to remain expensive and broken. 

We can, in fact, rebuild America. 

And I do mean that literally.

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Economy

STUDY: Number of Billionaires Doubles in Last Decade

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Number of Billionaires Doubles in Last Decade
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The number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade and the world’s wealthiest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined last year, the charity Oxfam said Monday.

Meanwhile, unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the world’s economy each year at least $10.8 trillion than the technology industry, the Nairobi-based charity said in its “Time to Care” report.

Women around the world work 12.5 billion hours combined each day without any pay or recognition, while the world’s 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa.

“It is important for us to underscore that the hidden engine of the economy that we see is really the unpaid care work of women. And that needs to change,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, told Reuters.

“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist,” Behar said ahead of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, where he will represent Oxfam beginning Tuesday.

“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system,” he added.

There will be at least 119 billionaires worth about $500 billion attending Davos this year, according to Bloomberg, with the highest contingents coming from the US, India and Russia.

“The very top of the economic pyramid sees trillions of dollars of wealth in the hands of a very small group of people, predominantly men,” the Oxfam report said.

“Their wealth is already extreme, and our broken economy concentrates more and more wealth into these few hands,” it said.

To highlight the inequality, Behar cited the case of a woman called Buchu Devi in India who spends up to 17 hours a day walking almost two miles to fetch water, cooking, preparing her kids for school and working in a poorly paid job.

“And on the one hand you see the billionaires who are all assembling at Davos with their personal planes, personal jets, super rich lifestyles,” he said.

“This Buchu Devi is not one person. I in India encounter these women on a daily basis, and this is the story across the world. We need to change this, and certainly end this billionaire boom.”

Behar said that to remedy the problem, governments should make sure above all that the rich pay their taxes, which should be used to pay for amenities such as clean water, health care and better schools.

“If you just look around the world, more than 30 countries are seeing protests. People are on the street and what are they saying? That they are not to accept this inequality, they are not going to live with these kind of conditions,” he said.

Source: New York Post
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(c) 2020 2019 Vanguard Media Limited, Nigeria Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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Automobiles

Pump Prices to Edge up After Attack on Iranian General, but Long-Term Effect Unclear

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By Jeff Ostrowski, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Motorists soon will see the effects of President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a prominent Iranian general. Whether pump prices rise a little or a lot depends on how quickly international tensions intensify.

Florida gas prices climbed an average of 7 cents a gallon in the past three days and could increase an additional 5 cents, AAA – The Auto Club Group said Monday.

The 7-cent increase was coming even before the U.S. air strike Thursday that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. That hike was a result of a rise in the price of crude oil in December.

News of the targeted killing of Soleimani sent crude oil surging nearly $2 per barrel on Friday. An increase of that magnitude typically translates to a 5-cent hike at the pump, AAA said.

The U.S. benchmark for crude oil traded Monday just above $63 per barrel, the highest level since May 2019. The price of oil makes up about half the price of a gallon of gas.

“What happens in the Middle East can have a direct impact on Americans’ daily lives by influencing what they pay at the pump,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “Crude prices rise when there’s a threat of war, because of concerns over how the conflict could hamper supply and demand.”

Oil analyst Tom Kloza of energy firm OPIS agreed that pump prices in Florida likely will rise about 5 cents a gallon in the coming days.

“Then I have a hunch that things are going to calm down,” Kloza said Monday. “I don’t think we’re looking at $3 gas.”

The national average pump price Sunday was $2.585, while the Florida average was $2.526, AAA said.

Kloza expects only modest increases in part because of the timing of the attack. January is always a slow month for gas consumption in the United States.

There’s also the reality that sanctions leave Iran unable to export oil. Complicating the calculus is Iraq’s response to the U.S. attack. The drone strike on Soleimani took place in Baghdad, and some Iraqi politicians considered the assault an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.

While there’s no Iranian oil supply to be disrupted by a war, Iraq is an important producer.

Trump keenly watches oil prices and realizes that a price spike might erode his support in this year’s presidential election, Kloza said.

At the same time, Kloza added, “This president has proven to be unpredictable.”

Trump’s response has been typically uneven. Delivering an official statement at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Trump’s tone was measured. He said the targeted killing was designed to pre-empt Soleimani’s planned attacks on American diplomats and soldiers.

“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said Friday. “We did not take action to start a war.”

However, over the weekend, Trump took to Twitter to threaten attacks on Iranian cultural sites.

“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”

##IFRAME_1##Iran has vowed vengeance, but military experts say the nation isn’t powerful enough to wage a direct war against the U.S.

“It’s still far too early to know how much of an impact this conflict will have overall on prices at the pump,” AAA’s Jenkins said.

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Economy

Stocks Rally Despite Impeachment News

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Stocks rose on Thursday as investors looked past the news of President Donald Trump’s impeachment as well as mixed U.S. economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrials advanced 53.85 points to begin trading at 28.293.13

The S&P 500 recovered 4.93 points to 3,196.07

The NASDAQ added 19.39 points to Wednesday’s all-time record, at 8,847.12.

The S&P 500 is up nearly 7% since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry in September.

Cisco Systems was the best-performing Dow component, rising 1.6%. The consumer staples and real estate sectors led the S&P 500 higher, gaining 0.4% each. Micron Technology shares also contributed to Thursday’s move higher. Conagra shares surged more than 14% and were on pace for their biggest one-day gain since Oct. 16, 1989.

Micron shares climbed 3.5% on the back of strong quarterly results. The chipmaker posted earnings per share and revenue that topped analyst expectations.

On the economic data front, weekly jobless claims fell to 234,000 from 252,000 the week before. However, economists expected claims to fall to 225,000.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s business conditions index fell to 0.3 in December from 10.4 in the previous month. Economists expected the index to slip to 8.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump became only the third president to be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors and will now face a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Prices for the 10-Year U.S. Treasury were lower, raising yields to 1.94% from Wednesday’s 1.93%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices gained seven cents to $61.00 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices moved forward $1.80 at $1,480.50 U.S. an ounce. Copyright © 2019 Baystreet.ca Media Corp. All rights reserved.

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