Hurricanes may be acts of nature, but the damage they wreak is an act of the profit system.
As TV journalists depict in graphic detail the hardships suffered by millions from Hurricane Sandy, the one thing they hide is the root cause of this devastation: capitalism. The capitalists’ drive for maximum profits has destroyed the environment and resulted in climate change and more violent weather phenomena. At the same time, they ignore their own scientists’ warnings of the danger of floods to urban tunnels and electrical plants, and how catastrophic damage might be avoided.
Had the Japanese government erected a seawall around the Fukushima nuclear plant, it would not have been flooded; millions would have been spared the dangers of radiation. Had the proper dams and levees been in place in New Orleans, thousands of residents would have been saved from the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.
New York City’s subway system has steadily deteriorated, in part because workers were laid off and preventive maintenance neglected from the 1970s into the 1990s. No wonder the tunnels are vulnerable to flooding! Why was this maintenance “overlooked”? Because under capitalism, profits are primary. When public infrastructure breaks down, bonds must be issued via the big banks to fix it. The workers’ tax payments go toward billions in interest on these bonds, which in turn create obscene profits for the banker-bondholders.
In assessing the 590,750 bridges in the United States, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a “D” rating to 30 percent of them, meaning they are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” (New York Review of Books). It would require an annual expenditure of $9.4 billion for 20 years to eliminate these bridge deficiencies. In addition, more than a third of the nation’s dams, 3,500 in all, are considered unsafe.
In New York, as Con Edison lays off electrical workers while forcing one to do the work of two, its CEO collects a compensation package of $24.8 million. With the highest rates in the U.S., Con Ed turned a $5 billion profit in 2011.
At the same time, trillions are being spent for another top priority for U.S. bosses: imperialist wars that kill millions of workers. The maintenance and repair of transportation, electrical grids, dams, levees and bridges don’t directly advance the efforts of the U.S. ruling class to control the world’s oil resources and dominate its capitalist rivals in Europe and Asia. That is where war comes in.
Only a communist society run by and for workers will put the interests of the working class front and center. Only then will we build an infrastructure that can tame natural phenomena like hurricanes and floods.