A major Bronx water supply line burst this morning just before 6:30 a.m., flooding Jerome Avenue for several blocks near 177th Street, halting traffic, disrupting subway and bus service, and damaging two nearby gas mains. The water flow was capped by 9:20 a.m., officials said. Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said it was not clear why the pipe, which was installed in 1903, had burst. “It has been doing yeoman’s work, but unfortunately, after 108 years, it’s not,” he said.
What’s difficult to think is a good reason for the United States of America to have this problem. The United States can current sell five year bonds at a negative real interest rate. The United States has plenty of unemployed construction workers. Are we suffering from a metal shortage of some kind that makes it impossible to take advantage of cheap lending to hire construction workers to fix broken pipes? If so, I haven’t heard about it. Instead, we seem to be suffering from a shortage of effective political leadership. Not coincidentally, we’re talking about a rich, low-tax country that’s also the world’s military hegemon losing its AAA-rated bond status.
I think the problem is worse than that. There is a large segment of the political establishment that thinks the problem is the lack of private water companies. Because if the government got out of the way, there would be plenty of people willing to start private water companies to run pipes everywhere and they could do it cheaper and better than the government. And if you point out the numbers suggest this is not the case and demonstrate the game theory that explains why such a thing is unlikely; then they just toss up their hands and insist that government water is slavery. You can not have a sane policy discussion with people who find the concept of policy illegitimate.