Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our Infrastructure Is Valuable As Scrap

Since the advent of Reaganomics, the gutting of our governments and the rise of conservatism in our country, one noticeable fact is scariest: our country is falling apart. There is no longer any money to fix roads and bridges, nor are there any regulatory agencies left to inspect what roads and bridges remain.

A newer trend, more insidious than the deterioration of our bridges, tunnels, and roadways, is the disappearance of pieces of our infrastructure that retain a modicum of value: the metal.

Since our money is worth less and less every day, the value of the metal that forms our infrastructure is worth a lot of money.

In the late 1970s, I was partners with a friend in a recycling business. The economy was slowly recovering from the Vietnam War, the dollar was weak, inflation was increasing and scrap metal prices were at the highest they had ever been.

We would make deals with developers to remove old heating systems and plumbing, and scrap ferrous and non-ferrous metals from their renovation sites. We'd store and process non-ferrous metals (copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, etc.) to increase its value, and the ferrous metals (iron, steel, cast iron, etc.) would be sold to a wholesaler forthwith and would only be processed by us if the work could be done at the site of pick-up. We benefited as the price of prepared #1 steel rose sharply from $40 a ton to $110 a ton, and the price of aluminum rose from .19 a pound to as much as sixty cents a pound. It was a good time to be in the scrap metal business.

Eventually the economy stabilized and so did the price of scrap metal.

Now that the economy is in the shitter again, the value of scrap has increased, and this is wrecking havoc on our neglected infrastructure.

Not only are vandals stripping foreclosed homes of their copper plumbing and aluminum windows, they have started removing manhole covers and grates from the city streets!

Philadelphia Streets Unsafe for Manhole Covers

They used to say the streets around here will swallow you up, but they were talking about drugs and guns," said Keith Thomas, 32, as he hoisted a radiator he collected onto a scale at a junkyard in a drug-ravaged section of the Kensington neighborhood on the city’s north side.

Now the streets' missing manhole covers are literally swallowing up citizens!

Well, at least there is value somewhere in our once-great nation!

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