Failure to Follow Through

The other day I read about a 31year-old National Guard veteran who is dying of stage four colon cancer because of two things: excessive exposure to airborne toxic chemicals created by U.S. Army disposal techniques by deployed forces and a lack of effective medical care by the V.A. after discharge from active duty.

I wish this surprised me, but it didn’t. It’s merely a newer version of what happened in Vietnam with Agent Orange and other exposures, and it’s due to a basic flaw in U.S. society. As a society, unless required by law, we never plan to follow through adequately, in terms of both maintenance and funding. Let’s send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, but don’t plan for safe disposal of waste and damaged or abandoned equipment because it’s either too costly or too dangerous and, especially don’t plan for and fund adequate rehabilitation for those who come home injured and possibly disabled. The failures of DOD and the V.A. in these areas have been exposed and publicized for decades, but nothing has changed that much.

That’s not the only military aspect, either. At one point several years ago, something like thirty percent of military aircraft were unavailable for flight because of the lack of maintenance and spare parts.

But it’s not just about veterans. It’s everywhere. The United States built the greatest highway system ever, but it’s falling apart everywhere, especially the bridges, because there’s never been enough funding for maintenance and repair. The same is true of the electric power grid – especially in Texas. It’s true of dams and water projects.

It’s true in education. We’ve created a system where the only way for most young people can hope for a decent-paying job requires going into debt for years. From what I can tell, almost no one in authority ever seriously asked about the economic, social, and practical repercussions of such a system while it was being created. Nor did anyone ask if “the college for everyone” model made sense for young people or for the nation as a whole.

The principal reason why the college cost fiasco occurred is that almost every state in the Union decided years ago not to maintain the state’s per pupil funding at public colleges and universities while expanding enrollment and facilities (lower state taxes were clearly a higher priority). And it’s often worse than that. At my wife the professor’s university, in order to serve the increased enrollment mandated by the legislature, the university has raised funds for new buildings from donors, but the legislature skimps on maintenance funds for those buildings, and big donors are far less willing to support the less glamorous business of maintenance and support. A previous dean of the library system was removed from his position because he had the nerve to tell the provost that there was no physical way to supply the services demanded by the administration with existing funds. They eliminated his position, but haven’t found any way to fund those services. Now, this year the university has had to cap new enrollment for the coming school year because the soaring price of housing has created a severe shortage of affordable student housing – not to mention housing affordable for anyone in Cedar City who is not comparatively affluent.

The southwest of the United States is suffering the worst drought in 1200 years and reservoirs are at all-time lows. Yet more and more people are moving there every year, and until the last year or so, the politicians and industrial leaders ignored the experts who kept warning of the problem.

And those are just a few examples of the failure to look ahead and to follow-through on commitments.

3 thoughts on “Failure to Follow Through”

  1. Lourain says:

    There were plenty of warning signs that sooner or later there would be a serious illness jump from an animal to humans. But that was always a problem for the future. Well, the future is here, and we were not prepared for it.

  2. Bill says:

    Is this a human condition, an american condition, a contemporary condition? Most of the examples are from politicians who generally only think to the next election and their long term thinking is for their family foundations. What is the solution though? Do we put aside money for maintenance? But we know pension funds which are similar are frequently raided like social security. Do we require funding for later? That would mean nothing gets done. Unfortunately, the current method is shoot the messenger and deny there is a problem. Since it is a political problem, it will need a political solution which will revolve around making it more costly to Big Business to have a crumbling infrastructure than to pay reasonable taxes

  3. Hanneke says:

    It seems to be a problem for societies that practice short-term thinking and imediate gain, and prioritise political popularity before practical considerations. It is apparently very prevalent in America, but not all aspects of all societies suffer this to the same degree. Those that don’t tend to have rules, laws and regulations that require things like maintenance and depreciation to be taken into account.
    For instance, Dutch municipalities need to have solvent multi-year budgets accounting not just for ongoing fixed costs and new plans but also for maintenance (and replacement where necessary) to get their budgets approved; if their budgets don’t get approved the province puts them under stricter oversight, raises local taxes and blocks unnecessary new investments until they balance their books.

    The YouTube channel NotJustBikes has made several videos showing the basics of the ( information, about how a lot of USA and Canadian cities are built and financed, and I was so surprised that apparently such a ruinous way to build and maintain towns could be so widely accepted!
    Here’s a link to the starting video; I find the visual comparisons and the clear explanations he gives help me to understand the matter better.

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