Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Don't care if you look like Dracula's daughter"

by Tom Bozzo

Paging Dr. Baker.

An AP story on the incipient water-supply clusterfuck says that the cost of upgrading water supply pipes in the U.S. could be "staggering:"
Experts estimate that just upgrading pipes to handle new supplies could cost the nation $300 billion over 30 years.
$300 billion is a lot of money by most standards, but it's what the U.S. spends on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 18 months, or less than a year's service of the U.S. federal debt.

I could say the same thing, with minor changes of scale, for just about any other "staggeringly expensive" infrastructure project — providing the U.S. with intertubes as good as South Korea's, intercity trains as good as France's, take your pick — it's not that the money couldn't be there. It's certainly available for maintaining U.S. supremacy in nation-wrecking, despite the lack of proven utility to such capabilities.

One unfortunately prescient-seeming bit of near-futurism in Charlie Stross's Halting State is the suggestion that the U.S. will fall off the global economic power map by the end of the next decade, at least while biting a few trillion bucks' worth of infrastructure improvement.


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$10B/year. For context, Merrill wrote down 84% of that amount in three months.

In three months, for one firm, staggering may be a fair summary. For a country that has around $2.4 trillion in annual revenues, that's less than 0.5%.

If 0.5% is staggering, I'd hate to see how frail the AP thinks the United States is. Makes Charlie Stross look like an optimist.
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