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Engineer warned of major structural damage to Miami building in 2018

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(FILES) In this file aerial view, shows search and rescue personnel working on site after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, on June 24, 2021. (AFP)

The state of the old and aged infrastructure in the US, from roads and bridges to schools, makes one wonder why the US spends billions of dollars in other areas, like the US military and nuclear weapons, when it could spend it on its infrastructure, possibly saving lives as a result.

 A 12 storey building collapsed in Surfside Florida on June 24th trapping dozens under the rubble. Search operations for the bodies of the victims have been underway since.

Investigations are taking place to establish the cause of the tragic incident.

The building was built in 1981 and was undergoing a recertification process requiring repairs. In 2018 a report by a consultant engineer had warned about major structural damage to the building.

The incident, one of the worst the US has suffered in recent years, attracted extensive media coverage and has been making headlines for days.

But there are other similar or even more tragic accidents occurring around the country that aren't paid much attention to in the press.

These include an average of 316 shootings that take place in the US, resulting in 106 deaths every day, or the reports that, on average, 20 US military veterans are dying as a result of PTSD induced suicide on a daily basis.

Selective media coverage of domestic issues

So the issue here in terms of news coverage, but how do you deal with chronic issues of homelessness, of excess death from the heat?

And in the northwest, there have been several hundred people who have died as a result of the heat, the high temperatures in Washington and Oregon and British Columbia.

That's a huge story as well. More people died there that in Florida, and yet the Florida thing has sort of been the magnet for the media, and they really like, well as, there's a saying in the American press. "If it bleeds, it leads", and Florida fits into that.

Frank Emspak, Political Commentator

During the Independence Day weekend alone, at least 150 people were killed in more than 400 shootings across the country.

US President Joe Biden announced late last month that the Senate had struck a bipartisan agreement for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to provide funding for the country's roads, bridges, the power grid, public transport and the internet.

He, however, said the plan can't succeed unless a separate $6 trillion budget bill is passed. US Republicans are openly opposed to the suggestion arguing that the bill would create such a debt that it would prove quite taxing on the US economy.

What there is a bipartisan consensus on, however, is America's military spending, standing at roughly $700 billion.

Between 2015 and 2020 US military spending increased by 15%; the US military budget is three times more than China, and a whole order of magnitude larger than that of its arch rival Russia.

The military budget President Biden has called for represents a 0.4% cut compared to last year, which has sparked criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike and comes against the backdrop of the crumbling American infrastructure which has clearly outlived its usefulness.

Reasons for astronomical US military spending

An important part of the industrial economy in the United States is military contracts. And so there is this sort of huge built in bias to the military and the way in which it's discussed.

Finally, the budget system here, which is obscure I think to almost everybody, including most people in this country, is divided into two parts, and the part that is called discretionary is the one where all of this stuff like the internet or infrastructure, highways, that's discretionary; defense is treated separately, and it is treated as something that cannot be reduced within the budgetary framework.

Frank Emspak, Political Commentator

Which should be the priority for Washington, securing interests abroad or ensuring the immediate safety and security of the people inside its own borders?


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