Life, the Nation, the Planet: What’re They Worth to Ya?

If you’ve been following the unfolding news about the collapsed Champlain Towers condo complex in Florida, you’ll know that there had been warnings that the complex was structurally challenged going back to a 2018 engineering assessment. Repairs were scheduled to begin this week, starting with the roof.

Today the Miami Herald published photos taken by a contractor just 36 hours before the collapse. The photos show standing water, cracked concrete, and exposed rebar in the parking garage below the pool deck, which is where the structural failure is believed to have originated. Residents who parked in the garage must have seen this.

From several news stories I get the impression that the only reason the condo board was preparing to address the problems (at an estimated $15 million) is that the building had a county mandated 40-year recertification coming up. Otherwise they may have ignored them longer.

I do not know anyone on the Champlain Towers board personally, and I may be judging them unfairly. But I imagine (I do not know) that some board members urged that repairs be made more quickly, and they were ignored by the majority who didn’t want to spend the money until they absolutely had to.

If someone could have warned them that the building would collapse and people would die, would they have acted more quickly?  If a year ago they were shown videos of the collapse, what would it have been worth to them to avoid disaster? Every penny they could get their hands on, I suspect.

And to me that Champlain Tower condo board looks a lot like Congress.

One of the many questions about the bipartisan infrastructure framework is, how will this be paid for if we can’t raise taxes? Because, you know, taxes on income and investments may never be raised and may only be cut, according to GOP dogma. Jeff Bezos may have so much money he literally doesn’t know what to do with it, so he has yachts to support his yachts and is planning to launch himself into space next month, but heaven forbid he has to pay any taxes. (See also The real crisis for American democracy is our cowardly inability to tax the rich by Will Bunch.)

Jeff Stein reports at WaPo that one agreement made by the bipartisan frameworkers is that they would take $70 billion out of unemployment compensation to pay for new infrastructure spending. However, benefits would not be cut. They are going to get the $70 billion by eliminating “waste and fraud.”

People familiar with the unemployment compensation program say that’s nuts. Waste and overpayments may add up to $35 billion — which is alarming enough — but $70 billion, no way.

The fuzzy math on unemployment benefits is just one of the debatable assumptions the Senate and White House dealmakers made in claiming they are paying for more than $500 billion in new infrastructure spending with new revenue.

No issue emerged as a greater obstacle to the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations than how to pay for it, as lawmakers were hemmed in by political realities that constrained their options.

Republican lawmakers have refused to raise taxes on corporations and the rich, which ruled out the White House’s preferred proposals. The White House, meanwhile, refused to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year, which led them to rule out a gas tax that some of the lawmakers had pursued.

Do read the whole article for the entire list of where the bipartisan frameworkers expect to get their revenue. Experts who have gone through the framework carefully say that the “pay fors” in the framework are wishful thinking. Remember Paul Ryan and the Underpants Gnomes?

The Underpants Gnomes are back! One suspects they never went away.

Another compromise made for the “bipartisan” bill was to eliminate anything related to climate change as infrastructure spending is planned. Currently Mother Nature is providing a nice example of why that’s stupid. It was 116° F in Portland yesterday, a place where the average high temperature for June is 73° F.

Roads are buckling. Power cables are melting.

One family felt their home shake, so they ran outside. The road in front of their house had cracked and risen six to eight inches. One suspects that building materials used in Portland were not chosen to withstand extreme heat, just as Champlain Towers may not have been designed with rising oceans in mind. At the very least, from now on engineers will have to factor climate change into their calculations, or our infrastructure repairs may not last long.

I can’t find a video clip now, but I remember seeing Mitt Romney, discussing the ongoing infrastructure negotiations, announcing that all the climate change stuff had been taken out. There was clear disdain in his voice for the “climate change stuff.” If the GOP has an official position on climate change — kind of hard to know, since they didn’t bother writing a new party platform last year — it’s to ignore it. Here’s a Brookings report from last month on how the Republican party is holding back the nation on climate change policy. The American Petroleum Institute (API) is actually more progressive than the Republican party on reducing carbon emissions.  A snip:

Many Republicans legislators still reject the science of climate change, a position not held by other mainstream parties in democratic countries, but rising among far-right parties in Europe. Their positions have not kept up with their constituents, or even some business groups with which they are typically aligned. After the API made its announcement, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement saying, “Proposals that impose a cost on carbon will hurt American families.” In April, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania announced at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he planned to introduce a bill to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Framework Commission on Climate Change. He introduced his bill, which has no chance of passing, on Earth Day.

It’s like a clique of high schoolers who all have to wear ripped jeans, get their noses pierced, and make fun of the cheerleading squad to stay in the clique. Rep. Perry is the guy who want to be especially cool, so he slashes the tires on the Pep Club bus. It’s all about impressing one’s peers.

I look at these bozos and wonder that if they could see a video from 2023 showing a bridge collapse in their districts — even better, if their grandchildren were in a car on that bridge — they would suddenly feel a tad more urgency.  And they could look at news stories from 2032 about how crumbling infrastructure and the fragile power grid is destroying the U.S. economy, even as climate refugees — since few places within 500 miles of the Equator are habitable, and the “dead zone” is growing — are crossing the southern border to go north. Canada may be building a wall. And then we could go forward a few more years, and they could watch their adult grandchildren struggle — and perhaps failing — to survive on a destabilized planet. Fun stuff.

What would you spend to change that future, Senator? Congressperson? When do we finally get to stop burning the planet so that the most entitled members of the capitalist class can get richer? And can we do that before there are mass extinctions? What’s it worth to ya?