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Travis Cunha

Mar 31, 2024

United States’ Infrastructure is Dealt Another Blow

It must be hard to be on the public relations team for American infrastructure in the post-Covid world. 2023 was marred by multiple railroad derailments; now America’s bridges are the topic of discussion. On Tuesday, March 26th, a Singapore-registered cargo ship named “Dali” collided with Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge. Footage of the collision quickly circulated on social media, where we can see the ship lose power twice and then hit the bridge, resulting in its total collapse and killing six construction workers.

As though the Francis Scott Key Bridge's collapse weren't bad enough, the disaster was made worse by the revelation that shipping containers filled with hazardous materials are now in danger of polluting the Patapsco River. According to Jennifer Homendy, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the cargo ship had been carrying 56 containers of hazardous chemicals.

How Long Until Biden Visits Baltimore?

President Joe Biden does not have the best track record of responding to infrastructural failures during his tenure. The people of East Palestine, Ohio waited over a year to receive a visit from the president after a train derailment that sent plumes of hazardous smoke into the air. Speaking to the people of East Palestine, Biden said he wants them to understand “that we’re not going home, no matter what, until this job is done, and it’s not done yet.” He then promptly returned to Washington D.C.

While Biden was quick to at least call the local government of Baltimore, it seems his speech-writers simply reused his statement for the residents of East Palestine, while adding a generic “blank” tough, and “enter city name here” strong taglines.

Biden told the Maryland public, "You're Maryland tough, you're Baltimore strong, and we're going to get through this together. I promise we're not leaving. The people of Baltimore can count on us to stick with them every step of the way until the port is reopened and the bridge is rebuilt."

Wow, thanks Joe, the people of Baltimore are sure to expect a quick and efficient cleanup of the waters and expedient work reconstructing the bridge, right? Let us check in on the state of affairs of the cleanup effort in East Palestine. A statement released on March 29 by the Environmental Protection Agency reported that, more than a year after the initial train derailment, Norfolk Southern has barely begun cleanup of contaminated sediment. That work is “on hold” while the team “reassess tactics” of the cleanup. 

Initial assessments for how long it would take to reconstruct the Francis Scott Key Bridge are bleak. Several experts have provided estimates ranging from four to ten years for the bridge to become operational again. Benjamin Schafer, Professor of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University said, “I've lived through quite a few civil infrastructure projects and they're rarely less than 10 years and the price tags have never been out of the hundreds of millions these days. In round number senses, it's not great.”

The Fall of United States Efficiency

America’s infrastructure has become nothing short of a laughing stock as of late, but this was not always the case. In fact, the founding fathers of Communism saw the industrial efficiency of the United States as the ideal example to follow.

A century ago, following the death of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin wrote “Foundations of Leninism.” In this work, Stalin describes the characteristics of a “Leninist-style” of work that should be adopted by the party and the worker. Stalin states, “The combination of Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficiency is the essence of Leninism in Party and state work. This combination alone produces the finished type of Leninist worker, the style of Leninism in work.”

American Pragmatism was the leading ideology during the time of Stalin's writing, an attitude by exemplified by his quote: “American efficiency is that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognises obstacles; which with its business-like perseverance brushes aside all obstacles; which continues at a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable.”

How did the United States go from being a model of industrialization for the new, ambitious USSR, to a country plagued by stagnation of her productive forces? A recent image shared by twitter user @fentasyl highlights just how decrepit and prone to collapse U.S. bridges are today. Indications of decline are evident everywhere, particularly in the Rust Belt region of the United States, where formerly-bustling factories now stand as deteriorating relics of a bygone era, characterized by busy production and growth.

In “Foundations of Leninism,” Stalin issues a prescient warning to the U.S. of what will happen if American efficiency is not combined with the “revolutionary sweep” that Russians accomplished. He writes, “But American efficiency has every chance of degenerating into narrow and unprincipled practicalism if it is not combined with Russian revolutionary sweep.” American efficiency has been devoured by the natural progression of Capitalism, bringing us to where we are today. 

The New King of Infrastructure

China has emerged as a living example of what the United States once was, with its pragmatic approach to infrastructure. China faced a very similar predicament just last month, when a cargo ship struck the Lixinsha Bridge in Guangzhou's Nansha district, causing a section of the bridge to collapse. Comparing the two very different responses to these accidents is both illustrative and revealing.

Within just forty hours, water supply was restored to a community of 9,000, and temporary docks were constructed. Seven days later, a temporary bridge was constructed and normal transportation resumed. A local teacher reported classes began again that on Monday, and a local farmer stated that life “had basically returned to normal.”

Over 15,000 port workers in Baltimore are now out of work and wondering when they will return. But with the state of the United States today, we can predict they will be forced to find new work. The problem and solution seems obvious; the bridge was destroyed and we should fix it, yet U.S. politicians can't seem to wrap their heads out this. Every day, the American people notice more cracks in bridges and potholes in the roads. It is only a matter of time before the masses understand the industrial achievements of China and demand a return to the glory days of an efficient and thriving American government that serves the people. 

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