BOB SCHIEFFER, THE HOST of CBS's Face the Nation, made a fine point last week. While speaking with the hosts of the drivetime CBS 880 radio broadcast, he contrasted the eroding American municipal and transportation infrastructure — symbolized by the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse — with the money we're laying out for the reconstruction of Iraq. He cited in passing a spending rate of $200,000 per minute on various projects there. In a short opinion piece on CBS News.com, Schieffer — whose stint as anchor of the Evening News was far too brief — provides additional detail on how America is pouring cash into an ungrateful nation on projects that are either unwanted or mismanaged by their new Iraqi owners.
The decrepitude of our infrastructure was driven home again this Friday, when lightning struck and disabled the power at the water-treatment facility that serves my area of New Jersey. Both the main plant's juice and its backup generators were knocked out, forcing 800,000 Bergen County and northern Hudson County residents to curtail outdoor water use and boil anything they drink or use for cooking. Between this practice, the mass shutdown of restaurants to avoid contamination, and the mad rush to the stores to buy bottled water, Northern New Jerseyans got to spend a day or so with a little taste of how citizens countries with trashed public works fare. The only problem is that we don't have a rich foreign sugar daddy to bail us out.
At this rate, we don't have to worry about terrorists disrupting our transportation, financial, or agricultural networks. The acid of time and the poison of neglect will get the job done without anyone having to get Semtex under their fingernails.