Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pay Me Now--Or, Pay Me Later

There was a famous TV ad a couple of years ago which showed a greasy auto mechanic explaining how a good oil filter could help to prevent engine problems. The tag line was, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” It was obvious to anyone who saw the ad that it was much cheaper to pay him now with a good filter purchase than later. Yesterday, I wrote about an example of a pay me now or pay me later with an old building purchase we made a couple of years ago. Today, I want to show how it is affecting the USA and specifically the impact upon rural America.

This past month you probably saw the dramatic pictures of levees breaking along the Mississippi River. Whole towns were suddenly under water, farmsteads were often small island specs surrounded by the murky backwaters of the ‘Mighty Mississip’. The levee problems in New Orleans and the bridge collapse in Minneapolis are other examples of where delayed maintenance led to catastrophic results.

In my travels around the country I’m often astonished at the poor condition of infrastructure, especially in some rural areas. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that we need to spend $1.6 trillion just to bring the USA’s infrastructure into good repair. And, that is just to fix up what we have…not adding one more bridge or mile of road!

The USA is only spending 2.4% of our GDP on infrastructure compared to 5% in Europe and 12% in China.

There is a growing political push for us to catch up, but that the funds be spent in and around big cities. The Brookings Institute, a Washington DC think-tank recommends that the bulk of any funds be spent on the top 100 metro areas.

I’m hopeful that our politicians will figure out that it would be much less expensive to pay now than later. And, that they don’t forget rural America.

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