Americans like to think of the U.S.A. as the most modern, bright, shining leader of progress, engineering and technology in the world. We like to think that other nations envy and follow our every move. That is what I grew up believing, and it was largely true 30 to 50 years ago.
But the United States has fallen behind. Any person who has traveled the world can see how that other nations took notice of our concepts and while we sat back, they improved upon our ideas. Now in many ways the United States is falling behind. For example, consider the Brookland Bridge, in New York. Or consider the New York Subway system, or our highway system, massive airports, and even our electric utility systems. Con Edison was considered the worlds most progressive and powerful utility system in 1950. Now it is a hodge podge of old systems build for an analog age, spliced and taped together with pockets of technology trying to hold an overloaded electric grid together.
The power outages in August, 2003 blacked out parts of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and even Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Peggy Walsh SVP of the Consumer Energy Council of America said: “The system built 50 years ago can’t handle the demands of a digital society”. Philip Sharp a former Indiana congressman and Harvard lecturer on energy policy said that deregulation was partially to blame because it led to a “patchwork system” that is a “crazy-quilt system of rules that govern market in different parts of the country”. At least under a regulated system, federal regulations were fairly uniform. It is no wonder that people in American occupied Iraq were joking that no wonder they don’t have electricity there, when the Americans can’t even provide it on Wall Street.
A trip around the world will show that the rail system in the United States is at least 30 years behind the rail systems in France and Germany. Our bridges and roads in the Northeast a crumbling and as our older systems continue to decline, nations around the world are building newer better-engineered infrastructure. A trip to Asia will demonstrate that our Golden Gate Bridge is small compared to the newer larger bridges in Hong Kong. United State subway systems cannot compare with those in Japan, Britain, or Germany. Even in India, the government is taking old concepts of American subways, rail and freeways and designing national programs that within 20 years will be some of the most modern in the world. China, Thailand, Japan, Korea all have international airports more modern and better designed than the older established airports in the United States.
Why bring it up? Have you ever considered the economic impact of having a good freeway system, subway or transportation system? How much does ease of travel and communication contribute to economic success? The economic impact of having a modern electrical system, or modern infrastructure can make the difference as to whether we can compete in the new economic world of the future.
While America is spending billions of dollars every month on military adventures and in trying to “build other nations” it’s internal infrastructure at home, particularly in the older industrial sectors and the Northeastern part of the nation is becoming long in the tooth.
But, American’s say: “At least we are ahead in computer technology.” A recent story may quell that idea as well. While in Asia recently I observed computers, cameras, software and hardware that were far more advanced than available in the United States. Even in remote Mongolia, a business executive commented: “It seems that Americans are behind in computer technology. We use better systems than in the United States.” I looked at what they were doing, and they were right! Wake up America!