There’s a Better Way: Infrastructure Investment Paves the Way for Prosperity

This time last year, the rain fell.  And fell.  And fell.

The floodgates burst, and South Carolina found itself facing an historic 1,000-Year Flood catastrophe—and the consequences of a decade-plus of Infrastructure neglect under Congressman Joe Wilson.

The world watched, as many parts of South Carolina’s Second Congressional District became flood-ravaged lakes following breaches to dam after dam.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, 17 of 51 statewide dam failures occurred in SC District 2.

17 of 51.  With a .333 batting average, you could win a Major League Baseball batting trophy.

Instead, South Carolina’s Infrastructure should be sent to the minors.  The stark reality is that one-third of these dam failures occurred in Congressman Wilson’s own District backyard—on his watch.  An unchecked watch that has lasted 7 terms and 15 years.

During the past decade of that tenure, Congressman Wilson voted against the Water Resources Development Act, which provided funding for specific South Carolina projects to prevent “flood damage reduction.”  During that time, Congressman Wilson also voted against bill after bill after bill devoted to building and maintaining our transportation Infrastructure.

Consider Joe Wilson’s endless “no” votes the next time your vehicle jolts across our pothole-pocked interstates and highways.  Or the next time your child hops on a school bus—like my third-grade daughter does every day.  Also, bear in mind that South Carolinians spend $3 billion annually on deficient roadway-related expenses.

Back to dams.  Of course, we’ll never know whether Joe Wilson also voted against the Dam Safety Act, as it passed in voice vote form.  Then again, this is the same ‘mis-Representative’ who voted against providing relief to the survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

As I reflect on the one-year anniversary of the 1,000-Year Flood, it appears clear that Joe Wilson just doesn’t give a dam.  Or a bridge or a road.

One year ago, so many homes and businesses were ruined.  So many lives changed forever—nearly 20 South Carolinians perished.  For months after the Flood, my daughter and so many other children, and adults, crossed bridges daily and observed creeks and streams turned into veritable junkyards, strewn with automobiles and refrigerators.  Even today, numerous properties remain destroyed—forced reminders of last year’s horror.

Our Community came together resiliently.  The Richland Library branch where I work distributed truckload after truckload of bottled water in the aftermath of the Flood.  Our branch also hosted one of the busiest FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) in South Carolina.

For six months, I spent my workdays helping Flood victims.  I will never forget the several-day period I spent helping one woman process her relief forms.  Imagine a Congressperson who actually knows what it’s like firsthand to navigate a disaster relief form maze!

I also helped my Community experience relief amidst the suffering.  I was director of the Rosewood Arts Festival in Columbia, which was scheduled for October 3, the day the Flood struck.

Nearly every Midlands festival was forced to cancel.  However, the Rosewood Community truly needed something positive. After logistical blood, sweat and tears, we put on the Festival and did what we do best:  celebrate Beauty and Community!

Where was Congressman Wilson during this time?  I don’t know.  He didn’t drop by the Festival; he never visited our FEMA DRC.  And I never saw him near a Gills Creek Watershed disaster site.

But I do know this:  South Carolina has more than 1,800 deficient bridges—and 7 of the Top 10 most-traveled, deficient bridges are in SC District 2.  I know that one-third of South Carolina’s interstate pavement is classified as “fair or poor.”

Feeling hesitant to hop in your car and pop off to Publix?  What about crossing the river from Lexington to Columbia during your daily commute?

“Status Quo” Joe spends a lot of time blaming President Obama and his own colleagues in the U.S Senate for everything under the sun.  Meanwhile, he votes time and again against investing in our Infrastructure.  He can’t pin pothole tails on Donkeys; he has only the Elephants in the room to blame.

A few weeks ago, I received a midnight call from a Lexington County elected official who said, although conservative, he is sick and tired of prospective businesses rejecting his municipality because of the dilapidated condition of his town’s bridges, roads and waterways—which could be improved by “yes” votes for federally-eligible improvements.

Infrastructure is the backbone of the U.S. economy.  As President Eisenhower proved by creating the Interstate Highway System, investment in Infrastructure has a positive impact on American productivity, GDP, employment, personal income and international competitiveness.  In fact, for every $1 billion invested in Infrastructure, more than 10,000 jobs are created.

What could be better than fixing potholes and creating jobs at the same time?

There’s just one problem:  Joe Wilson.

Joe Wilson represents the “status quo.”  We must replace “Status Quo” Joe in order to make this reality happen.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has made it clear that Congressman Wilson’s “way”—his 15-year, do-nothing voting record—puts us on a trajectory to further disaster via rocky roads and bridges over troubled waters.

Instead:  “There’s a Better Way!”

Joe Wilson hasn’t done his job.  But I will vote to invest in Infrastructure in South Carolina, and by doing so, we can eliminate unemployment and keep our state safe.

Because, the thing is, it wasn’t really a 1,000-Year Flood.  In reality, it could happen again tomorrow.  Meanwhile, our Infrastructure remains in a state of disrepair and decay—and our children and loved ones are left vulnerable.

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


Facebook comments

  • strayaway

    A case could be made for our overspent federal government to tax and spend more to maintain federal highways, coastal defense, and otherwise maintain federal properties. However, the maintenance of state and local roads are not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution (10th. Amendment) and are therefore the responsibility of South Carolina’s taxpayers and law makers.

    The suggestion that infrastructure spending does so much to spur the economy is also exaggerated. There are exceptions. FDR’s hydro electric projects, for instance, have paid for themselves many times over and continue to produce cheap electricity. Infrastructure projects do make a lot more sense than, say, Obama’s ‘cash for clunkers’ program which transferred cash and jobs to Korea or Bush’s tax rebates spent buying foreign stuff at Walmart.

  • SaltyDawg

    There’s nothing like a conservative’s stunted understanding of economics, constitution and history to take our country back to dirt roads, wide spread poverty and 18th Century standard of living.

    There’s a far better case to be made that the Federal government’s spending since FDR has propelled the American standard of living to the envy of most countries. If anything, since Reagan convinced Americans that the Federal government is evil, we’ve lagged behind many more developed industrial democracies in our investment in advanced infrastructure. Many of our international competitors have capitalized on an American invention, the internet, and provided nationwide high speed internet to foster commerce and education.

    Of course, a narrow reading of the Constitution won’t find the word education but, in the modern knowledge-based society, one would have to be extremely obtuse not to recognize the national security implications of an ill-educated labor force. I suppose that we *could* create a Coastal Defense Academy like West Point and remain within the conservative’s literal reading of the Constitution.

    But, really, continuing a Federal/State partnership in building and maintaining Federal roads in South Carolina is not stretching The Constitution in the least. Prior to the ascent of Reaganism— or, least the shortsighted hatred of the Federal government of the Tea Party— Republicans recognized the immediate GDP economic stimulus of infrastructure construction and long term payoff of the investment for the “general Welfare” of Americans. In the past, SC Republicans recognized the benefit of such a combining of Federal and State dollars to maintain Interstate roadways, bridges and U.S. highways. Now, despite the approximately 75% of SC citizens who want their highways returned to passable conditions, intimidation by a tiny GOP faction scare Republican politicians more concerned about primary opposition than the dangerous crumbling of SC infrastructure.

    • strayaway

      “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” -10th Amendment

      FDR couldn’t dig his way out of the depression. WWII and rebuilding Europe, which lost many of its factories, did. I was pointing out (In my previous post you are responding to below) that whether or not FDR’s initiatives were constitutional, at least his hydro electric projects were cost effective and that there is some validity to Arik Bjorn’s post. That said, we have fifty states doing things in their own ways. If something works in one, it can be duplicated in others. When Vermont tried to institute an affordable single payer health care plan like those of Canadian provinces, fascist ACA thugs, your folks, from the Obama administration made that impossible. Had the 10th Amendment been followed, Vermont would by now have its single payer plan and other states might be in the process of doing the same. Instead we have mandatory corporatist (economic fascist) unACA policy price increases of 25% next year according to our lying President.

      Your understanding of the Constitution is skewed. The Constitution does give the federal government delegated powers to defend the Country. States cannot wage wars except to stem invasions until federal forces arrive. Education is as necessary, re your West Point example, as property and weapons to carry out that task. “General welfare”, by the way, is the opposite of ‘parochial interests’. Parochial interests are things like Hillary selling State Department favors to foundation contributors. I realize that liberals think that general welfare means give a way programs to buy votes but that concept came later. Eisenhower, made the case that interstate highways were necessary for the national defense to make them consistent with the Tenth Amendment. Perhaps, Democrats could learn something from that but, like you, they have long ago written off the 10th Amendment as somehow narrowing the Constitution so instead we have executive wars, ineffective borders, no affordable single payer health care plans, and a huge ball and chain national debt to affix to our children. Thanks a lot!