1. Water

Let’s start with water. I personally am mostly made up of water, so it’s an important topic for me.

One problem here in 2010 is that most of our drinking water in America comes to us through really, really old pipes and mains. America’s towns, cities, counties, states and federal government have been thinking about and worrying about fixing these for decades.

But we haven’t done it yet.

It’s the old accounting trick of deferred maintenance. Are the water mains going to crumble into dust this year? Maybe, but probably not quite yet. So this year we can win votes with lower taxes by kicking the can down the road.

Deferring maintenance is a neat trick because people who enjoy fretting about deficits don’t count this kind of deficit against you. They actually applaud this kind of shell game, calling it “discipline” and “responsibility” even though it’s really the opposite of those.

Repeat that same accounting trick year after year and you eventually wind up where we are now. The Environmental Protection Agency offers some numbers to summarize:

There are 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States

The number of breaks increases substantially near the end of the system’s service life. Large utility breaks in the Midwest increased from 250 per year to 2,200 per year during a 19-year period. In 2003, Baltimore, Maryland, reported 1,190 water main breaks—that’s more than three per day.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that water lost from water distribution systems is 1.7 trillion gallons per year at a national cost of $2.6 billion per year.

If spending for capital investment and operations and maintenance remain at current levels, the potential gap in funding for 2000–2019 would be approximately $263 billion for our drinking water infrastructure.

That $263 billion funding gap for America’s drinking water infrastructure does not appear anywhere in the Deficit Nightmare stories repeated by the supposed deficit hawks. Nor does that $2.6 billion a year of wasted water appear anywhere on their balance sheet. Nor does the recklessness of the annual gamble of kicking this can down the road yet again — resulting, inevitably, in the Baltimore scenario described above, which winds up costing far more than is “saved” by deferring/neglecting maintenance in the years leading up to the breakdown.

The deficit hawks don’t count these costs in part because they are borne by many different state, county and municipal governments. And in part they don’t count them because most self-proclaimed “fiscal conservatives” aren’t half as worried about balancing budgets as they are about shrinking budgets.

When your goal is to shrink budgets — “Smaller, Not Better” is their mantra for government — then you do everything you can to portray government at every level as illegitimate. Competent, good government undermines that portrayal. So does any reminder that government at every level is involved in desperately needed, vital services, such as providing safe, clean, affordable drinking water to citizens who are all more than half water themselves and who all need to replace nearly a gallon of the stuff every day.

So. Water.

The Recovery Act passed in 2009 included $6 billion for water infrastructure. That’s money well spent. That’s money well invested – reducing the cost of water waste and preventing the potentially very large cost of future Baltimore-style breakdowns.

But a year and a half after the Recovery Act was passed, the unemployment rate remains above 9 percent. And we’ve still got another $257 billion or so in deferred maintenance on our national water infrastructure.

That’s a fine example of what Wendell Berry calls “a solution neatly divided into two problems.”

The New York Times’ Michael Cooper reported last year (see “Aging of Water Mains Is Becoming Hard to Ignore“) on the increasing urgency to attend to that deferred maintenance on and investment in our water infrastructure:

There is plenty of competition for the federal drinking water money. When the state of Ohio asked for suggestions on spending its stimulus money, mayors and city managers put in some 1,400 requests for drinking water projects costing a total of $3 billion, said Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Many of those requests sound like pleas. Village managers complained of losing a quarter, or even half of their drinking water to leaky pipes. One official said that his village’s aging pipes had burst or sprung leaks 20 times since November. Others lamented that water main breaks regularly forced them to order their residents to boil their water in order to avoid any contamination.

For $3 billion, the mayors and city managers of Ohio could create a slew of jobs while building and rebuilding a vital, necessary piece of the nation’s framework and ensuring future savings for cities and residents alike. I’m sure the mayors and city managers elsewhere in the country could come up with a similar list of desperately needed projects that would also create desperately needed jobs.

This is not rocket science. We need jobs. We need water infrastructure. Spending on water infrastructure creates both. Fixing our leaky water mains can help to fix our leaky budgets, getting the revenue and the water flowing again.

(To many people, that last paragraph will read like the old Far Side cartoon about “what your dog hears.” To them it will sound like: “Blah blah blah SPENDING blah blah blah.” And that word “spending” will cause them to recoil in horror and to have to go lie down until the vapors have passed. I’m sure many of them are legitimately, sincerely worried about deficits. Yet somehow they’ve never quite worried enough to have thought about or read about or asked about the effect of unemployment on those deficits. Until they take the subject that seriously, I’m not inclined to take their thoughts on the subject that seriously either.)

  • hapax

    Pretty much every time we see an orange cone on the road, someone is sure to announce “Your Tax Dollars At Work!”
    It can be annoying, but most people I hang with are not stupid enough to think that it’s more annoying than, say, having to boil all your water for a week.
    (And one thing I wish that the U.S.A. politicians would push more is the sheer convenience of having drinkable water available for you everywhere you go. Almost all states have laws (EEEEK EEEEVILLL REGULATIONS!!!!) that require free drinking water be available at all places of “public accomodation.”
    I never appreciated this until I started travelling in Europe. I remember one train ride from Brussels to Zurich, during which we did not have enough time to visit a currency exchange (this was before the euro.) We had brought our own food and water, but only one bottle apiece; the A/C on the train was inadequate, the water in the restrooms wasn’t potable, the sandwiches were salty, and the refreshment cart wouldn’t take our Belgian cash. Near the end of the trip, I remember being near tears every time the train passed over a pretty rolling stream, except I hadn’t the moisture to spare. )

  • Lori

    (And one thing I wish that the U.S.A. politicians would push more is the sheer convenience of having drinkable water available for you everywhere you go. Almost all states have laws (EEEEK EEEEVILLL REGULATIONS!!!!) that require free drinking water be available at all places of “public accomodation.”

    And anyone who thinks private companies should be providing that water needs to look at what has happened in places where municipal water has been privatized.

  • renniejoy

    Lori – I’m pretty sure privatizing water is what the bad guy was doing in “Quantum of Solace”.

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    Thanks for the drink recommendations. I like chai spice tea, but usually prefer herbal teas.

    That means that in order to work on them, you need to dig them up first.

    I don’t know if this method has been used for water mains, but I know of some methods for upgrading sewer pipes that don’t involve digging them up.

    privatizing water is what the bad guy was doing in “Quantum of Solace”.

    I like the Adam & Joe rewording, “Solum of Quantace.”

  • http://city-of-ladies.blogspot.com Rebecca

    I’ve always thought that a better film would be one about a physicist who devotes herself to her studies after the death of a loved one: “Solace of Quantum.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    @Rebecca: Interesting thought. :)

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    I have nothing to add re: water systems – pretty much everything said thus far is excellent, and somehow Fred has managed to write a post which keeps away the libertrollians nicely.
    But coffee, that’s a different matter. This is what I use to make my coffee:
    http://www.toddycafe.com/
    And, when I go for a little while without it, and buy commercial coffee, or use some form of instant, I notice the difference. The major problem that I’ve found is that you have to engage in a little advanced planning – you need to remember to make the coffee for the next week or so ahead of time.

  • hapax

    @Mike Timonin — thank you! Now I know what to get the spouse for his birthday.

  • http://www.tvshowboards.com/stargate/ Erik Bloodaxe

    Is that dark chocolate cocoa out already, or still something that’s on the horizon? Because that sounds amazing. Right now I tend to prefer mochas over both plain coffee and hot cocoa, but I think dark chocolate cocoa would make for a far better replacement. :)
    Also, this is amazing timing for this topic: it wasn’t long ago that I was watching The Story of Stuff’s Bottled Water video, and currently I’m listening to the sermon series centered around water from Rob Bell’s Church (being able to listen to services online even from a couple states away is awesome). I wish I would’ve thought of this water example the last time I had a “social capitalism vs. free market ‘biblical’ (his words) capitalism” debate with an old friend of mine who’s now a libertarian (assuming it would’ve made a difference; the frequency with which the subject was changed instead of my point being fully addressed was already too difficult to keep up with).
    Also, with that “1.” in the subject title, I assume that means this is the first entry in a new series and there’ll be a “2.” to look forward to soon, right? Can’t wait! :)

  • Amaryllis

    I haven’t had a chance to keep up with things lately, but if “Water is “1,” I’ll hope to see Roads, Bridges, Trains, Schools, Parks and Historic Sites…but Water is definitely Number One. Among the few things that genuinely upset me about Left Behind, not to mention Soon, was the glee that L&J take in the thought of a world deprived of water.
    I expect someone has already said this, but if things keep on as they’re going, we will end up with a world where only the Elect can take safe drinking water for granted. The economically elect, that is, to the enormous profit of the companies that bottle and sell it.
    And if we’re talking about coffee skillz, well, I just ground the beans, poured the water into the coffee maker and flicked the On switch. Neglecting, however, to put the ground coffee into the filter basket. Would anyone care for a lovely cup of nice hot water?

  • P J Evans

    Oh, office coffee-making.
    We have a coffee machine on our floor. (It also provides hot water for tea.)
    I’ll go in the kitchen and find a fractional cup of coffee still in the pot, slowly becoming burnt-coffee syrup. And I’ll dump it, rinse the pot out, and start a fresh one. If I feel like it, I’ll use the good coffee hiding in the cupboard.
    (Why the people who actually drink coffee can’t make a fresh pot, I don’t know. It’s not like it requires a lot of training.)

  • http://lyorn.livejournal.com/ inge

    Dark drinking chocolate: beckscocoa.com (Germany) and zotter.at (Austria) sell dark drinking chocolate (becks has 100% chocolate powder, zotter has dark chocolate bars to melt in milk). Both seem to have some problems with the English language pages at the moment (or maybe it’s my browser).
    You can also make dark drinking chocolate simply with chips of dark chocolate (I use Lindt 70% for cooking, baking a cocao-making), or simple baking cocoa (made from chocolate beans and nothing else). It’s all hot-milk-based, though. I found it better with low fat (1.5%) milk than with full fat, because the chocolate taste comes out stronger. I have not experimented yet with water base, and I dont’t think any of this will work in cold milk.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Ooo, chocolate bars to melt in milk – I’ve never had those, but I’ve read about it, and it sounds so lovely.
    hapax – always willing to help in re: spousal natal gifts. It’s perfect for me, because I’m the only one who drinks coffee in the house, and one cup coffee makers tend not to be all that good, at the price I’m willing to spend.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    inge! zotter seems to not have any drinking chocolate available right now, and so I am sad – alternative places to get it? I like the idea of using chocolate chips, so I may try that. (Not right now, it’s obscenely hot here right now, but in the fall, perhaps) I gather you can use Hershey bars in a pinch…

  • Lori

    Is that dark chocolate cocoa out already, or still something that’s on the horizon?

    It’s available now. I’ve had the Godiva brand and it was good. I think Ghirardelli has one and I would imagine it’s good as well. Dark chocolate is such a trend that I wouldn’t be surprised if Hershey has one as well but I can’t say for sure and I’m not sure how good it is/would be.
    In termed of bar chocolate to melt for cocoa I usually use Abuelita Mexican Chocolate (made by Nestle). I have that because it was tasty and easy to get where I lived. I’m not sure if it’s available everywhere these days or not.

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    Green and Black’s makes an excellent drinking chocolate, very dark.

  • http://lyorn.livejournal.com/ inge

    Mike: Zotter seems to be on summer break until middle of August. They have a store search, but only on their German page. Maybe you could e-mail them?
    I make my own chocolate chips, which is why I like that specific Lindt chocolate so much: it comes in very thin bars which can be easily chopped with a big knife (just like chopping herbs). Some chocolatiers sell chocolate flakes: In various catalogues, I’ve seen them from Bonnat in France and Charbonnel in the UK. I have never tried them, though. You can probably use any chocolate you like — probably one or two degrees darker than your usual taste. Sharp or bitter will get mellowed by the milk, but greasy or sweet will be enhanced IME.

  • http://www.tvshowboards.com/stargate/ Erik Bloodaxe

    Lori: It’s available now. I’ve had the Godiva brand and it was good. I think Ghirardelli has one and I would imagine it’s good as well. Dark chocolate is such a trend that I wouldn’t be surprised if Hershey has one as well but I can’t say for sure and I’m not sure how good it is/would be.

    Yeah, Hershey does have their own; went to Amazon to do a quick search for the various options, and saw a “special dark” choice from them. Godiva’s price looks a lot better though. Will have to make sure I’m on the lookout for them and see how much they go locally the next time I’m at the grocery store (not that I have much money to go around at the moment though, being in the “having trouble finding work” boat myself :( ).

  • hapax

    Along with Callebaut, Scharffen Berger makes one of the best cooking chocolates; it also has the advantage of occasionally being stocked by upscale grocery stores.
    Both can be purchased online (at least, that’s where I get them)

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Inge: I fear my German is not sufficiently good to purchase trink schokolade via e-mail. Especially since the German that I learned (very poorly, back in high school, because of a girl, who I was no longer dating at that point) is not really Austrian German at all. However, I suspect that I can find sufficiently high quality chocolate locally, and then I will hunt down a hot chocolate recipe. Well, when it finally gets cold again. If, in fact, it will ever get cold again – at this point, I am not sure that it will.

  • http://www.tvshowboards.com/stargate/ Erik Bloodaxe

    Amaryllis: I haven’t had a chance to keep up with things lately, but if “Water is “1,” I’ll hope to see Roads, Bridges, Trains, Schools, Parks and Historic Sites…but Water is definitely Number One.

    Yeah, I think Roads would make an excellent candidate for number 2. Would certainly hit close to home too, as my city is finally doing a massive reconstruction project on the highway that runs through it, which turns out to have been necessary for quite awhile now (that one of the entry ramps had massive holes in it for over a year should’ve made that blatantly obvious). The fact that they even knew (well, well beforehand) that some of the concrete was rotten (something I wasn’t entirely aware could happen to concrete, at least not very easily) and had been for a long time, has me avoiding using it as much as possible until the full project is done.

    Among the few things that genuinely upset me about Left Behind, not to mention Soon,

    Soon? *Googles* Underground Zealot series?! How many of these “end of the world” books have they written?

    was the glee that L&J take in the thought of a world deprived of water.

    Not to mention their treatment of Revelation as a modern day revenge fantasy against groups they’re already actively and successfully subjugating. I’m unfamiliar with how they treat the water issue, but I probably don’t want to know either, do I? :-/

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    Not to mention their treatment of Revelation as a modern day revenge fantasy against groups they’re already actively and successfully subjugating.

    That alone would be infuriating enough. But for me, the true ugliness of the treatment is that L&J claim that people like themselves are being subjugated and persecuted. Some time ago Fred called this the “persecuted hegemon” mindset. It reminds me of the descendants of Confederate veterans who describe the conditions at one prisoner-of-war camp as genocide and ethnic cleansing. They might have a point about the massive numbers of prisoners who died in the horrific conditions. But the best thing I can say about their description is that the slaves in the Confederacy had it much worse, and although most of the POWs probably weren’t slaveowners themselves, the effect of their battlefield actions was to perpetuate slavery.

  • hapax , who takes chocolate very seriously indeed

    @Mike Timonin –
    This is one of the better hot chocolate recipes I’ve ever seen, and easily modifiable for your own tastes. Suggested modifications: add in a pinch of espresso powder; leave out the cinnamon and almond, and add a good splash of Grand Marnier.

  • http://j.com/ Tonio

    Hapax, that recipe sounds great. It would be a welcome relief from a couple of gourmet mixes that I tried, which turned out to be mixes of cocoa and coffee.

  • Lori

    It reminds me of the descendants of Confederate veterans who describe the conditions at one prisoner-of-war camp as genocide and ethnic cleansing. They might have a point about the massive numbers of prisoners who died in the horrific conditions.

    That’s some serious chutzpah. Have those people never heard of Andersonville or are they just hoping that the rest of us haven’t?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hawkerhurricane Hawker Hurricane

    That’s some serious chutzpah. Have those people never heard of Andersonville or are they just hoping that the rest of us haven’t?
    Posted by: Lori
    ——————–
    I have heard it argued that the events at Andersonville were
    a. Exagerated by anti-Confederacy liars
    b. Justified, due to events at Union PoW camps
    c. The Union’s fault, for stopping the prisoner exchanges.*
    And I’ve heard all three comments from the same person, one after the other. It seems that events in Union PoW camps were attempted genocide, while events at Confederate PoW camps were ‘just deserts’.
    *The Union stopped the prisoner exchanges because the Confederacy refused to exchange Black troops, prefering to execute them for bearing arms or sell them into slavery even if they were born freeman. And the Confederacy publicly announced that they would sell Black troops into slavery and execute thier officers for the ‘crime’ of allowing Black men to be soldiers.

  • MercuryBlue

    I haven’t heard of Andersonville. *Googles* Oh, so it’s only all right to get upset about bad conditions killing off one in four people if it’s our people dying, not theirs? (For whatever values of ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’.)
    Re the persecuted hegemon bit: Tim Wise on– beginning of essay quoted below.

    Prominent white conservatives are angry about racism.
    Forget all that talk about a post-racial society. They know better than to believe in such a thing, and they’re hopping mad.
    What is it that woke them up finally, after all these years of denial, during which they insisted that racism was a thing of the past?
    Was it the research indicating that job applicants with white sounding names have a 50 percent better chance of being called back for an interview than their counterparts with black-sounding names, even when all qualifications are the same?
    No.
    Was it the study that found white job applicants with criminal records have a better chance of being called back for an interview than black applicants without one, even when all the qualifications are the same?
    No.
    Was it the massive nationwide study that estimated at least 1 million cases of blatant job discrimination against blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans each year, affecting roughly one-in-three job seekers of color?
    No.
    Is it the fact that black males with college degrees are almost twice as likely as their white male counterparts to be out of work?
    No.

    Etc etc etc. The answer, it turns out, is a tanning booth tax. (And President Obama, but we knew that.)

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    hapax – that does look like a good recipe, and I will certainly give it a shot come cold time. Perhaps w/o the cinnamon, though. And shouldn’t “Mexican” hot chocolate have chili pepper in it? Anyway, I’ve book marked it for cold.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    (And one thing I wish that the U.S.A. politicians would push more is the sheer convenience of having drinkable water available for you everywhere you go. Almost all states have laws (EEEEK EEEEVILLL REGULATIONS!!!!) that require free drinking water be available at all places of “public accomodation.”

    My wife and I went to Las Vegas for our honeymoon. Now, the entire city of las vegas is a giant attempt to blow my fraking mind, but one thing in particular I found mind blowing was this: there weren’t any public water fountains next to the rest rooms. In a town where it hardly ever rains and daytime temperatures often approach those found on the surface of the sun. (Though the week we were there, it rained four days out of eight, more than it rains in most *years*).

  • Robyrt

    Skipped most of the comments, but here are my thoughts:
    1. Infrastructure investment is the best kind of stimulus spending. We could use some stimulus spending, and the collapse of the housing sector means we can ramp up to extra infrastructure spending relatively quickly. Water mains are a good place to start, as they are less vulnerable to wishful thinking than roads. So I agree with the main point.
    2. This is not by any means a solution turned into two problems. Even if we immediately allocated $263 billion – 20 years worth of repairs at once – it would only put a dent in the unemployment numbers. Don’t expect much of a multiplier effect if any, because the shopkeepers are already there waiting for more traffic, and you’re repairing in existing areas rather than constructing somewhere new, and construction projects have long timetables (especially when you want them all done at once!) so your stimulus will be less effective. The main advantage is not a reduction in unemployment, or stimulus efficiency, but rather that you get your infrastructure fixed “for less”. (If you’re being optimistic, “for free.”)
    3. “The effect of unemployment on deficits” doesn’t matter when you’re talking about paying for jobs with deficit spending. $1 of stimulus will generate less than $1 of tax revenue, barring a miracle breakthrough, so you’re adding to the deficit even as you decrease unemployment. So the last paragraph is way off base: someone whose chief concern is the deficit can legitimately oppose this plan. (The appropriateness of such a myopic concern about the deficit is a separate topic.)

  • Lori

    here weren’t any public water fountains next to the rest rooms. In a town where it hardly ever rains and daytime temperatures often approach those found on the surface of the sun.

    They aren’t about to give you free water from a water fountain. They want you in the casino getting “free” drinks while you gamble. Vegas is all about separating you from you money using any and every means possible.

    “The effect of unemployment on deficits” doesn’t matter when you’re talking about paying for jobs with deficit spending. $1 of stimulus will generate less than $1 of tax revenue, barring a miracle breakthrough, so you’re adding to the deficit even as you decrease unemployment. So the last paragraph is way off base: someone whose chief concern is the deficit can legitimately oppose this plan. (The appropriateness of such a myopic concern about the deficit is a separate topic.)

    The last paragraph isn’t way off base. It’s simply not looking at the situation from the weird “this one moment in time is the whole story” POV that deficit hawks conveniently adopted once we had Democrats wanting to spend money helping people instead of Republicans wanting to spend money extending American empire.

  • MaryKaye

    The reasoning about “shopkeepers are already sitting there waiting for business” seems iffy to me. There will be cases where the shopkeeper doesn’t need to hire because the increase in business doesn’t overrun their current employees. There will be other cases where they do need to hire, or ask for more hours from current employees. There will be cases where the business would otherwise have folded and lost all its employees, but the extra traffic keeps it afloat; and cases where a new business would not have started, but can start with the extra traffic.
    In my local area, which has a lot of small restaurants for the University trade, restaurant failure is always high but seems to have gotten much higher lately. From the way that staff greet me when I eat out in summer, I have the strong impression that just a few customers can be a make-or-break difference, especially for a new restaurant. Business may attract business, for one thing; an empty restaurant looks unappetizing, and I am often plunked in front of a window to use as an advertisement.

  • http://pecunium.livejournal.com/ Pecunium

    re cocoa: I make it from a ganache:
    Chocolate
    Cream
    Dash of sugar
    All balanced according to taste. Cream, being mostly fat, doesn’t burn, and so the chocolate melts into it, without a whole lot of worry. One can make it up in larger quantities, and then scoop it out as needed; with such flavorings as desired.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    They aren’t about to give you free water from a water fountain. They want you in the casino getting “free” drinks while you gamble. Vegas is all about separating you from you money using any and every means possible.

    I am given to understand that in (Thorn)e Goode Olde Dayes, Vegas was about not annyoing you with nickle-and-dime stuff so that you’d be happy and relaxed, and lose your money at the casino.
    A co-worker, who has spent much more time in Vegas, blames the rise of those casino club cards, which allowed them to more precisely target Fools And Their Money, without having to comp anyone who hasn’t proved themself liable to return their investment in spades (also hearts, clubs and diamonds)

  • http://lyorn.livejournal.com/ inge

    Chocolate Madness: Beat cream, cool well (3°C is best, give it an hour at least). Melt chocolate, let it cool until it wants to become sluggish but doesn’t yet. Mix quickly with the cream. Put in alcohol or espresso to taste. Pour mass into pretty bowl, with or without fruit or small Italian bisquits. Put in the fridge overnight.
    If you use the same weight of cream and dark chocolate, you can stick a knife in it and it won’t fall over.

  • Will Wildman

    (Thorn)e Goode Olde Dayes

    I feel compelled to high-five you.

    $1 of stimulus will generate less than $1 of tax revenue, barring a miracle breakthrough, so you’re adding to the deficit even as you decrease unemployment.

    Well, no, there’s no 100% certain way of knowing how much tax revenue a marginal dollar will add to tax revenue – that depends on where it goes. If it’s salary, say, then first it’s income to a worker (taxed at some rate unless they’re below the basic personal amount, which I understand is crazy-low in the US), then probably spent on consumption (we’re talking about money for those who are unemployed; high savings are not their top concern) which means it gets sales-taxed, at which point it’s income for a business (taxed again) and et cetera et cetera. All depends on how many times it changes hands. I don’t know what the average velocity of money is in the USA right now (I’d be astonished if anyone did; I may google for a while) but I could easily imagine a dollar changing hands enough times in one year to make up a dollar in taxes.

  • Lori

    I am given to understand that in (Thorn)e Goode Olde Dayes, Vegas was about not annyoing you with nickle-and-dime stuff so that you’d be happy and relaxed, and lose your money at the casino.
    A co-worker, who has spent much more time in Vegas, blames the rise of those casino club cards, which allowed them to more precisely target Fools And Their Money, without having to comp anyone who hasn’t proved themself liable to return their investment in spades (also hearts, clubs and diamonds)

    My ex and I have had the “What the Heck Happened to Vegas?” discussion a bunch of times. Even when I first went you could still get really good food & nice places to stay cheap. Those things were not money-makers, they were the lure to get you to there and comfortable so you’d lose your shirt in the casino. Somewhere along the line people figured out that those loss leaders weren’t necessary and they could make money on both ends. I think your friend is right that the cards were a major factor in the change but I think there was more to it than that. Some of it ties back to the attempt to make Vegas a “family” destination. It was a failure (who in the world thought that up?), but it shifted the focus to making money outside the casinos and I think the current incarnation of Vegas as high-end hotel and restaurant paradise grew out of that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    @Will Wildman: If it helps I think the marginal propensity to consume is around 0.7 or 0.8 for most Americans that aren’t silly rich.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    @Will Wildman: I feel compelled to high-five you.
    Heh. I had been going to write “Ye”, but had sudden visions of a mob of slacktivites patiently explaining that the old-timey writing you’re used to seeing in movies and whatnot is actually not a ‘Y’ but just a glyph that looks a little bit like one (Except, I’ve heard, that often the Y was used to substitute for the thorn, because typesets that included a thorn character were sometimes hard to come by), and that it’s one of their personal bugaboos when people make that mistake.
    So I thought I’d get out in front of that.

  • Will Wildman

    I don’t know what the average velocity of money is in the USA right now (I’d be astonished if anyone did

    In retrospect, this is silly; the basic monetarist equation gives us V = PY/M. I was off trying to imagine empirical ways to measure rate of transactions. Bloody mathematicians, always finding ‘shortcuts’ and ‘solutions’…
    Anyway, velocity of money fell in recent times (not a surprise) but is apparently going up now, and is still above 9. The actual tax revenue that comes out of that is still hard to predict (because we’re talking about targeted expenditures, not the national average of T/GDP) but in terms of maximum tax revenue, it remains a good idea to give money to those who really really want to spend it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    V would also be GDP/M. You can get the nominal GDP level from the BLS and the nominal M value from either the Fed or the SGS depending on whether you think M should be M3 or M1.
    AGH ECON 101 GET OUT OF MY HEAD :P

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    From the way that staff greet me when I eat out in summer, I have the strong impression that just a few customers can be a make-or-break difference, especially for a new restaurant.
    As a new restaurant owner, yes, very much so. Not just for the basic business-breeds-business thing where people don’t go into empty restaurants, but also BBB because most restaurants get most of their business by word of mouth — one happy customer today can mean five next week, and twenty five over the next month.
    Plus, if the place is empty, the staff is bored. I went in to work last night and found my dishwasher making what he described as a Giant Toaster Strudel, just because he was bored.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    I hope you weren’t too hard on the poor dishwasher :O

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is really just very tired

    Are you kidding? I was quite pleased (he only used product that was about to go bad, which is always fine by me). I’m hoping to promote him to the line at some point.

  • http://www.offsetmortgageshop.co.uk/ Mark@Mortgage Shop

    Well, what can I say?Water is very important to all of us. Better without food than without water right?

  • Atlanta water user

    Water in Atlanta is provided by the City, but not included in our taxes. It used to be practically free (and, yes, I know it wasn’t really free.) For literally decades, we paid no more than $8 a month in water and sewer service for a house on a 1/4 acre lot.
    Then the feds forced the City of Atlanta to repair and/or replace its sewers. The City resisted for years, choosing to pay enormous fines. By the time the City acceded to the feds’ demands, replacement costs had become nightmarish. Higher rates were staged in gradually. We now pay $90 a month for water and sewer service, for the same house, with fewer people in it.
    So, yes, repair the infrastructure! I am sincere in saying this. Just be prepared for bills that are 10 times higher than what you are paying now.

  • http://www.tvshowboards.com/stargate/ Erik Bloodaxe

    Well, what can I say?Water is very important to all of us. Better without food than without water right?

    Depends on whether one would want to die quicker of thirt, or live longer but starve (might make for a good “Would you Rather” question). ;)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    @Erik: If the food has some moisture in it, eating might end up slowing your death by dehydration into a prolonged, well-fed death by renal failure.

  • http://nymonsters.wordpress.com Ian Perez

    Heh. I couldn’t help remembering this post today as I studied in one of the libraries at my university today. The downpour was such that a water main (which, if they’re anything like the rest of the campus, have been waging a losing battle against entropy for decades) below the library broke, so you’d have water seeping in through the floor all over the place–heck, you could even hear the water rushing below the floor. Fortunately, the staff acted quickly enough to prevent the water from damagign the books of electronics, but damn if that isn’t the perfect case for regular maintenance.


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