4 June 2016

NEW YORK CITY – America is falling apart. Anyone who travels in this great land knows it.

This great city is crumbling. I’m scared to take the underwater tunnels to Long Island or New Jersey. Our local airport, LaGuardia, should be in Zimbabwe.

The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that crumbling roads, rusting bridges, decaying railroads and transit systems are costing the nation $129 billion each year, and that crumbling infrastructure adds $97 billion annually and caused travel delays of $28 billion annually.

I raise this scandalous issue because Switzerland, a tiny nation of only 8.2 million, just opened the remarkable Gothard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest and deepest rail and road tunnel drilled right through the highest Alps.

I was in Switzerland in 1996 when the 151.8 km (94.3 mile) long tunnel project was begun, and I just watched its grand opening this week on TV. The project came in a year ahead of schedule and under budget at $10.1 billion. The Swiss are as skilled at watching their pennies as drilling through granite mountains. Rock amounting to 5 Giza pyramids was excavated.

The new Gothard Tunnel (there are two older, narrower ones)
Cuts almost an hour off the travel time from Zurich to Milan. More important, it will alleviate the frightful congestion and pollution from cars and heavy transport trucks in the narrow Alpine valleys. It creates a direct rail link from Rotterdam in the north to Genoa on the Mediterranean. One day soon, China’s fast-expanding high speed rail network, aka ‘the new Silk Road,’ will tied in to the Alpine network.

Each day, 250 trains will whizz under the Alps. High above the new tunnel are groups of 20th-century Swiss forts whose cannon and machine guns cover the land route over the strategic pass. I’ve inspected the largest at Goschenen, whose 155mm cannon can reach well into Italy. But the Swiss now seem to prefer more trade than old forms of security.

Compared to Switzerland’s excellent roads, beautiful bridges or viaducts, punctual to-the-second trains, the US looks – and perhaps is – a third world nation. Swiss, French, and German trains travel at 230-300km an hour, offering fast, clean, safe, civilized travel (at least when France’s rail workers are not on strike). I just took a French TGV express train from Lorraine on the German border direct to Charles De Gaulle airport in about one hour – what it takes to get from Manhattan to New York’s Kennedy Airport by taxi.

America’s vast highway system was built during the golden era of President Dwight Eisenhower. Today, America’s infrastructure is backwards, primitive, and humiliating for the self-proclaimed ‘greatest country on earth.’

Why is this? Because Americans and their government in Washington has chosen imperialism over taking care of home.
While the US crumbles, it pours billions upon billions into foreign military misadventures. The foolish war in Afghanistan will soon hit $1 trillion. Iraq is on the way to a second trillion. Washington is running little wars in East Africa, Yemen, now West Africa, Pakistan, and the Mideast, while gearing up for possible conflicts with Russia and China.

Invading small, weak Muslim nations may be glamorous and career-enhancing. – and certainly the objective of the neocon fifth column. Fixing sewers, dams and bridges is not – and does not make billions for arms manufacturers.

History is full of empires that ignored their own infrastructure and social well-being in favor of pursuing military glory abroad. All are on the trash-heap of history. America is headed that way, addicted to debt and war. We spend close to $1 trillion annually on the military and nuclear forces. This sum is not for ‘defense,’ but for offense around the globe.

Of course we have no funds to replaced New York’s 1900-vintage water conduits and sewers, or build desperately needed new bridges across the Hudson and East River. That’s because the funds are going to bomb Afghan tribesmen, Iraqi rebels and prop up vile regimes like those of Uzbekistan, Uganda, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Swiss don’t waste a centime on stupid foreign wars. That’s why their beautiful nation works as efficiently as a Swiss watch.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2016

This post is in: USA


  1. Belligs says:

    I agree and wish the current US Dictatorship will change and USA will be come a ‘real’ 1st World Country…

  2. Foryears the Americans were looking for a tiger. Then GWB came to power; I almost made a mistake and was going to use the word ‘elected’. He mounted that tiger with a lot of braggadocio and wounded it severely. Then he let Obama take his place, who instead of trying to pacify it, started to behave cowardly with drones and do more damage, even when showing off his unearned and illgotten Nobel peace prize. Meanwhile the zookeepers and the public at home are left in the lurch with false hopes of returning to past glory. The victory of 71 years ago came not about, because of the bravery, that was shown by the propaganda, but mainly by the Russians taking revenge for breaking the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, that killed millions of Russian civilians and caused the siege of Stalingrad. Without that fatal mistake by Hitler at that time, all of Europe would have been speaking German by now. Germany lost the battle, but won the war, if we consider the end result of that fracas. Instead of learning from the mistakes in history, the US got carried away by itself and started to see itself as an exceptional people. That must be the new definition of narcissism.

  3. tumbleweeds says:

    Eric: I was always amazed that the Sun newspapers carried your column (the only thing worth reading in that wretched paper) and greatly saddened (but not surprised) when they cut you loose. Love your articles always!

  4. Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “…is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch, everything stops.”
    Someone else also observed that democracy was not having the ability to vote, but, was having the ability to control the government. Most democracies have lost this and the Swiss are among the few that have largely sustained this democratic activity.
    I’ve always admired the Swiss for their ‘active’ citizen run governments and their very powerful, independent cantons. They take ‘referendums/plebecites’ very seriously and use them to run their country very well. Canada and the US could function like that, but, it will never happen. It’s not in the interests of the government.
    There was an issue of students traditionally shaking teacher’s hands and from the BBC, “The authorities said in a statement on Wednesday that “the public interest concerning gender equality as well as integration of foreigners far outweighs that concerning the freedom of belief of students”.”
    From the WorldPost, “The Swiss voted to ban the construction of new minarets — against all expectations and although their government and most political parties had rejected a ban. But this referendum had, in truth, little to do with minarets.
    The surprising vote reveals rather a growing unease in Switzerland, which traditionally has been one of the most open and most tolerant countries of the continent: Many Swiss are worried about the rise of political Islam and religious rules in Europe that are threatening hard-won rights such as equal rights for women and men, the secular rule of law above religion or the right of each individual to decide for him — or herself.”
    The Swiss seem to take democracy very seriously and the people have a decided role in the actions of the government.

  5. I like this column. I agree there is no glory in repairing and maintaining infrastructure but very much needed.
    The glory hounds should be retrained for more practical purposes.

  6. Joe from Canada says:

    Thank you, Eric, for another delightful, insightful article. The realities are that America has been at war for 222 of its 239 years, vocally, to ‘protect their freedom’, but, in reality to ensure cheap bananas, pineapples and oil.

    The military industrial complex made over 36 billion last year; all the while, its CEOs ranting about high taxes and cutting welfare.

    This Canadian finds it difficult to understand America’s leading writers and TV networks being obsessed with the rise of two of its greatest warmongers…to the point of crowning them with endless coverage…yet, ignoring the one candidate, Sanders, who promises to try another road.

    Why the American abhorrence with peace?

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