Make sure you find a stall with paper,” a woman warned me as she exited the restroom at Union Station, one of Washington, D.C.’s most venerable public landmarks. “Most of them have no paper.”
I followed the woman’s advice and checked several stalls before finding one with paper — only to see that the door to that stall was broken.
This was just one of the many signs of our crumbling public infrastructure I encountered in the course of my day yesterday — the day the U.S. Senate approved a tax bill that will decimate the funds available for infrastructure investment.
My day had begun with a hellish commute caused by my Metro rail station being closed for repairs. After decades of underinvestment, transit authorities now have to shut down stations for weeks on end just to keep the system patched together. My public transit alternative? Standing and waiting while three overloaded buses pass by without stopping.
In the capital of the richest country in the world, we can’t rely on our transit system to get us to work in the morning. We can’t even expect functioning toilets in our grandest public buildings. And this is just a tiny glimpse into the staggering infrastructure crisis across the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that more than $200 billion in additional annual expenditures are needed to fix our decaying bridges, roads, water systems, and other vital infrastructure.
And yet what do Republicans think is our nation’s most urgent need? Massive tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations that will add more than $1 trillion to the U.S. deficit over the next decade. Among other perversities, the Senate bill would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, cut the income tax rate for wealthy hedge fund managers and other business owners, gut the estate tax on the ultra-rich, and give tax breaks for private jet owners.
After walking up a broken escalator, I exited Union Station yesterday morning and headed over to speak at a rally against the Republican bill at the U.S. Capitol. From the other speakers I got a healthy reminder of just how trivial my daily inconveniences are compared to the devastation this legislation would cause millions of less privileged Americans.