The Hightower Report
Reactivating the CCC for National Recovery; and Pothole Advertising
Reactivating the CCC for National Recovery
The report cards have come out, and I'm afraid we're just not making the grade.
I'm talking about the Report Card for America's Infrastructure, issued every four years by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The engineers do an analysis of the condition of 15 categories of our country's crucial infrastructure – including roads, drinking water, parks, schools, and levees. The latest report scores us a big fat D.
Our actual performance is even worse than this poor grade indicates, for America was rated a D+ in 2001, meaning our officials have let these public assets deteriorate further in the past eight years. The engineering group says that our leaders ignore essential upkeep on our national house, relying on what the group calls "patch and pray" fixes. The group reports that it will take a concerted national effort costing $2.2 trillion over the next five years to lift America to a grade of A, where we belong.
That's 18 times the size of the infrastructure funding in President Obama's current recovery plan, but at least his plan makes a significant start for moving our country in the right direction. Meanwhile, there's another plan that the Obamacans are said to be considering that has special merit. It's a grassroots proposal to reactivate the enormously successful Civilian Conservation Corps that Roosevelt launched in the Great Depression.
The revitalized CCC would enlist thousands of young Americans in all 50 states, putting them to work on the huge backlog of reconstruction projects so urgently needed on the 700 million acres of both urban and rural public lands across our country.
Let's put Americans to work on jobs that really need to be done, building national assets for future generations. For information on the CCC idea and to sign a petition in support, go to www.wecantakeit.org.
Just when you think the corporate branding of public spaces couldn't get any more crass – along comes KFC, the fried-chicken chain.
Drive through the streets of just about any American city, and you'll find schools, museums, parks, stadiums, and all sorts of other public facilities plastered with corporate names, ads, and logos. That's bad enough, but now KFC is putting its ads on the streets itself.
In a gimmick cooked up with city officials in Louisville, Ky., the chicken chain is paying to fill in some of the potholes in the city's streets. In return, the corporation gets to stencil a gaudy ad on each pothole, declaring "Re-Freshed by KFC."
Believe it or not, KFC actually insists that it is filling the streets with ads out of a sense of civic duty. But it is more self-puffery than public service. While noting that more than 350 million potholes riddle America's streets, KFC donated a mere $3,000 to Louisville – which is not going to plug many potholes.
Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which frequently rattles KFC's cage over its mistreatment of the birds that produce the corporation's profits, made its own offer to Louisville officials. The devilish pranksters of PETA put up $6,000 – double KFC's payment – to fill twice as many potholes, in exchange for putting a PETA ad atop each one.
Apparently, though, not all citizens are equal in Louisville. The mayor, who had effusively praised KFC for creating "innovative public/private partnerships like this pothole refresh program," turned chicken when PETA presented its innovative pothole partnership. "No," he clucked to the group.
Pay attention, folks, for your town could be the next one to get plastered by KFC. The company says it is now looking for four other "lucky cities" to accept its pothole ads.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.