How Romney’s Economic Plan Would Gut Infrastructure Investments (Like Levees)

Mitt Romney on Friday visited Louisiana in order to tour damage from Hurricane Isaac, one day after delivering his address to the Republican National Convention. The first day of that convention, of course, was dominated by the Republicans’ continued use of a dishonestly edited quote to claim that President Obama thinks small businesses owners had nothing to do with their business. (Taken in context, it’s painfully obvious that Obama was referring to roads, bridges, and the American education system when he said, “you didn’t build that.”)

As Romney tours the storm damage, it’s worth noting that government-funded levees prevented far greater damage from occurring in New Orleans, seven years after the city was battered (and the levees failed) during Hurricane Katrina:

Isaac’s whistling winds lashed this city and the storm dumped nearly a foot of rain on its desolate streets, but the system of levee pumps, walls and gates appeared to withstand one of the stiffest challenges yet…Isaac arrived seven years after Hurricane Katrina and passed slightly to the west of New Orleans, where the city’s fortified levee system easily handled the assault.

Meanwhile, Romney’s economic plan — which would require a nearly 30 percent reduction in all discretionary spending — would make America’s already precarious infrastructure situation worse. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. needs $2.2 trillion in investments to bring its infrastructure into adequate shape, including $100 billion to repair levees:

More than 85% of the nation’s estimated 100,000 miles of levees are locally owned and maintained. The reliability of many of these levees is unknown. Many are more than 50 years old and were originally built to protect crops from flooding. With an increase in development behind these levees, the risk to public health and safety from failure has increased. Rough estimates put the cost at more than $100 billion to repair and rehabilitate the nation’s levees. […]

There is no definitive record of how many levees there are in the U.S., nor is there an assessment of the current condition and performance of those levees…As of February 2009, initial results from USACE’s inventory show that while more than half of all federally inspected levees do not have any deficiencies, 177, or about 9%, are expected to fail in a flood event.

By one estimate, more than half of Americans reside in counties “that contain levees or other kinds of flood control and protection systems.” And if Romney gets his way on the budget, those systems would be starved of funds and left to languish.