It’s going to be a great year. Well, mostly.
Times are still tough, and a lot of people are still out of
work. The drought has made farming difficult, impossible for some folks to carry
on and they’ve decided to sell their farms and get out.
The U.S. is trying to keep itself out of a conflict that
could consume the entire world.
If you want to be entertained, there are some great movies
coming out this year.
In Waterloo, Iowa, John Deere is selling the latest in farm
technology, adapting itself to the needs of farmers. It’s the John Deere Model
B, starting with the series number 60,000.
The tractor is what smaller row-crop farmers have been
wanting, offering an open cab with a pressed-steel seat and a 2.4 liter
two-cylinder engine and the familiar hand-crank starter. Two-row corn pickers
are in demand for harvesting corn.
On the Illinois River, the Peoria lock and dam at Creve
Coeur, is placed into service. The need is obvious — U.S. farmers are hearing
the sabers rattling in Europe.
War will mean an increased demand for the products they
grow, they expect and hope. They need a way to get those products to market. It
will be almost 20 years before the U.S. interstate system becomes a reality.
Welcome to 1939.
When we were talking after the press conference, after Sen.
Dick Durbin and Rep. Cheri Bustos and their aides had left, I mentioned to
someone that I’d winced when one of the other reporters had segued from talk
about the Peoria lock and dam and the need for infrastructure repair to talk
But it was helpful that the Syria question was asked.
Because then I was able to ask where, if the U.S. decided to send money,
military and arms to Syria, funding for projects such as waterway infrastructure
Durbin didn’t bat an eye. He reassured the media and our
audiences that the Department of Defense has plenty of money put aside for
things such as sending U.S. military or arms to countries such as Syria — $600
billion a year set aside, according to the senator.
I wondered if Durbin and Bustos saw any irony in that
Earlier, Durbin said that he has been working on
infrastructure legislation since 2007 — when the backlog of projects needing
authorization and funding was at $60 billion.
Later, we interviewed Col. Mark Deschenes, who is a veteran
of Iraq and Afghanistan and is a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger and Airborne
schools. His tours of duty have taken him to disasters in Haiti and to helping
out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He’s now the commander and district
engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rock Island District.
The colonel noted that it would take around $30 million to
repair the Peoria lock and dam to the point where it is at least in no imminent
danger of breaking down.
“I don’t expect a check for $30 million to land on my desk
tomorrow,” he assured reporters.
He praised the work of each of the 13-man crews at each of
the eight lock and dam facilities on the Illinois River, starting at La Grange
near Beardstown at the confluence with the Mississippi and ending with TJ
O’Brien, where the Illinois River meets Lake Michigan.
The crews work around the clock, in all weather and they are
the ultimate in multitasking. They are painters, carpenters, masons,
landscapers, meteorologists, radio operators and customer service agents.
They’re the ones who deal with the consequences of the
Illinois River being at flood levels this past spring to the bottom of the
traffic light that hangs a dozen or more feet above the lock chamber to signal
boats moving through the lock.
If you need any other reason, sit down and watch “Gone With
The Wind” or “The Wonderful World of Oz” — the original version with Judy
Garland — soon. Laugh at the old-fashioned special effects and backdrops used in
both movies, released in 1939.
We don’t make movies like they did in 1939. We don’t drive
1939-model cars as our regular everyday transportation, and we don’t farm with
the same tools we used in 1939.
But we still move millions of tons of cargo and thousands of
boats and hundreds of people up and down our inland waterways using technology
and structures that were put into operation in the 1930s.
I’m all in favor of the U.S. defending itself and its vital
interests and its friends, as well as taking care of active-duty military such
as Colonel Deschenes and our military veterans, fairly and providing for them in
But when a U.S. senator says we have $600 billion sitting
around for wars in other countries, it seems like somebody could see the sense
in having $30 million available to repair a piece of U.S. infrastructure. It
seems like it should only be logical that there should be a check for $30
million sitting on the colonel’s desk in the morning.