America in Decline 1

American towns can't afford to pave the streets their ancestors built.

We at Scragged have deplored many trends which are visible in our society today - increased government intrusion in our lives, declining economic activity, declining academic performance, and much else.  As a democracy, we voters have a chance to turn things around, mainly by telling our politicians that we don't like what they're doing and voting them out when they don't listen.  After a few election cycles of that, they might get the idea.

It's hard for voters who have to make a living to focus on cutting government spending over a number of election cycles.  That's why big-spenders have an advantage - they can go to work for the government which lets them spend significant time lobbying for more money.  The rest of us have to take time off from work to lobby for less spending.

This series of articles will focus on less well-known signs that things are indeed coming apart.  The goal is not to counsel despair; America is still the greatest country on earth, and as Adam Smith observed, "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation."  The goal is to remind voters of the stakes involved while there's yet time to turn things around.

America has done a great deal of good for many generations of hard-working people.  As a nation we became so well off that people from all over the world wanted to get in on it - that's why it's said that America is a nation of immigrants and why we have so much controversy about the illegal immigrants who jump the queue.

People forget, however, that our economic success was founded on individual liberty.  As we gradually lose our liberties to a growing government, our economy declines.  If it declines far enough, nobody will want to come here any more and we'll lose a whole generation of entrepreneurs - solving the illegal immigration problem, yes, but at a great cost.

With any decline comes many small signs that all is not well.  We need to keep these things in mind to remind us that there are consequences when government involves itself in the economy.

The Roads to Ruin

It is not news that our roads and bridges are decaying.  Back in 2007, USA Today pointed out that many bridges had been declared to be unsafe as far back as 1982.  The bridges were flagged as deficient by government-employed inspectors.  One can wonder why they were flagged since bridges rarely fall down whether they're marked as "deficient" or not; the list was mostly ignored for two decades.

It's one thing to know that work needs to be done, and then to keep putting it off for lack of funds.  It's another thing entirely to openly acknowledge that you're never going to get the money to do it and publicly throw in the towel.  The Wall Street Journal reported that some states are converting formerly paved roads back to gravel because they can't afford to maintain the asphalt that their electoral predecessors were able to install in decades past.

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.  [emphasis added]

Maintaining a gravel road costs about $2,600 per mile as opposed to $75,000 per mile to re-pave it.  In times of economic scarcity, this is a no-brainer for what seem to be lightly-traveled highways, but some officials mourn that they're going "Back to the stone age."

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as "poor man's pavement." Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

Weren't we told that the purpose of the stimulus was to spend money on "shovel ready" infrastructure projects?  The state of Michigan has a governor who's not only a Democrat, she's supported most of Mr. Obama's spending initiatives.  Why didn't Michigan get some of the stimulus money?  Where did it all go?  With Rep. Murtha's death, we no longer have to spend money on his "airport for no one," can't we find some money for Michigan roads?

The Journal put it well - "historical emblems of American achievement."  Back in the day, infrastructure investments led to increased economic activity which increased government revenue, but it's been a long, long time since government spending on new infrastructure showed a societal profit.

Have we truly reached the point where it's time to downgrade our roads because we no longer need them?  Or have we wasted so much money on pork that we can't afford to maintain our infrastructure?

This series will appear intermittently as offbeat signs of decline appear.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Economics.
Reader Comments
It's been awhile since I've posted.. Much of that was to figure out where I stood on so many issues that I could not explain why at the time I was "for" or "opposed" to them.

I love your article, btw.. I was thinking about this subject this morning as I was reading about a Mosque that spits in the face of America is being build at "Ground Zero".

Only an America that was truely in decline would allow that.

America is in decline for many reasons...

1.) Politics and political party wants have gotten in the way of actually helping the people. Agendas, whether they are "Religious" or not have gotten in the way of people's ability to reason. There are so many Republicans and Democrats that are for the idea of something just because Hillary or Glenn Beck suggested it. We're not educated anymore.. We're just a mass of people, skulls full of mush.

2.) My generation (20 - 30's) are the laziest generation that has ever walked the great country of America. We are more willing to buy cellphones and party like a rockstar than to actually put the time into getting a worthwhile education. What do most people my age go for when they go to College? Psychology or Philosophy... Why? Because it's easy for them and then they expect to get a job handed to them after they finish their degree with little or no work.

I never thought that the inability to do mathematics could be a genetic disorder... According to many Americans, it is.. Just like the inability to get a freaking job.

3.) Religion has posioned many of our minds into thinking that a God will take care of us when we're old and no matter how bad things get he will always intervene. Look at how many people are already starving, who are old and have paid their dews. God isn't helping them out... What makes you think that he (if he exists) is going to help you?

We don't put emphasis on savings, we put emphasis on spending.. Hence, why stimulus packages were created in the first place.

4.) People want all the services in the world without paying for them. While living in the western United States for over a year now, I've been seeing that we have so many people that say, "Government, get out of my life" and have 9/12 or stickers hating on Obama, but on the other hand complain when it's not involved enough in the services that people use! I remember one guy that was running for office against government spending and he was getting a pension check FROM THE GOVERNMENT! Hypocrites!

If better planning was used when creating these roads as talked about in the article, IE better quality tar or even concrete and maybe NOT letting the trucks (Oversized gas guzzeling pickups and SUV's, which I believe greately under pay taxes for the damage they do to the roads and the higher demand they create for gasoline because they use so much.) that everyone out here loves on every road they feel like, we could probably have preserved the roads a lot better in the long run and maybe these counties and states wouldn't need to let them erode!

I have many more... We're going down the tubes. I'm sad to see this come up now that we have a Black president that all Republicans don't like, because I've been seeing this for years and no one said a word or even defended Bush while all this was happening.

You have to remember that while you're bashing Obama for his stimulus package, which I never agreed with, Bush did the same thing with giving money to everyone though his "Stimilus" package. Some say he didn't go far enough.. Some don't think Obama went far enough!

and I don't think it will solve the Illegal Immigration problem, what we'll have is Americans hopping the border into Mexico! :-)
July 20, 2010 9:58 AM
" or even defended Bush while all this was happening."

TYPO.. .

Should be " and even defended Bush while all this was happening."

There's always one I miss... :-)
July 20, 2010 10:01 AM
"Look at how many people are already starving, who are old and have paid their dews."

Al, you've more than one typo. I've never paid any dews.

But seriously, my SUV is to blame in part for the degradation of America and her highways? Get real. Our cars are no heavier today than when those highways were built:

"The average new car or light-duty truck sold in the 2003 model year tipped the scales at 4,021 pounds, breaking the two-ton barrier for the first time since the mid-1970's, according to a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency last week." -

Go ahead and ban my SUV from the roads. I pay 4.5 times more than a Prius owner in gas tax, which means I pave 4.5 times more highway than a Prius owner. But my "Oversized gas guzzeling . . . SUV" at 4,600 lbs weighs only about 1.5 times what the environ-mentalist poster-child Prius does at approximately 3,000 lbs (that's guzzling, another typo). Seems the Prius driver is not paying his fair share. Plus, my SUV seats nine (511 vehicular lbs per passenger), while the Prius only seats at most five (600 vehicular lbs per passenger). So per person, my SUV is less a degrader of the roads than the Prius.

Also, just what on God's green earth do you suppose those highways were built for, bicycles? Absurd! These highways were built for the cars that we as Americans choose to drive, and the trucks that deliver the goods we choose to consume. Maybe we should slide down that slippery slope together and ban all vehicles from the highways, then they can remain in pristine condition and we can just gaze upon them with awe.

Stop blaming SUVs and pickups for what ails you. Keep your focus on the ruling class in government and the fools who vote them in. They will destroy this world long before Gaia will even know my SUV was here.

The point of the article is that America is in decline, and it ain't "dew" to the fact I'm driving a 4,600 pound SUV. It's due to the loss of individual liberty.
July 20, 2010 11:44 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...