FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Capitalism’s Overbuilding Trend

In “Political hubris plagues Bay Bridge, other big public projects,” Dan Walters, a political columnist for The Sacramento Bee, personalizes an underlying trend in the economy.

He paints figures such as Mr. Hardy Acree, retired Sacramento airport director, as bearers of outsized egos in quests to aggrandize themselves with public works projects. But the larger issue of overbuilding infrastructure, public and private, tells the tale of this trend in capitalism, past and present.

We turn to a particular case. Consider the local history of airport overbuilding in Sacramento, capital city of California. Passenger demand for air travel doubled at Sacramento International Airport in the early 1990s.

The reason for this increase was simple: Southwest Airlines, with its short-haul and low-fare business model, arrived in Sacramento. Air travelers cheered. Would this booming passenger growth in Sacramento continue?

Sacramento International’s Terminal A opened to handle the demand for Southwest’s trademark air service in 1998. During the next decade, Mr. Acree arrived in Sacramento from Houston, Texas. Soon after on his watch, Sacramento International’s Terminal B, opened in 1967, took center stage as a candidate for replacement.

Was this a demand-dependent move? In other words, was the past decade’s conditions of air travel and consumer supply and demand set to repeat itself?

The fact of the matter is no doubling of air travel that marked Southwest’s arrival in Sacramento was anywhere near on the horizon. Long story short, Terminal B, opened in 2011, is a brand new public infrastructure with visible under-use. Some might dub it an empty Taj Mahal.

As a tepid economic recovery continues for many with flat or falling wages while corporate profits boom, weak passenger demand in the capital city remains the rule. Walters describes the outcome of Sacramento’s terminal overbuilding.

“Since 2006, the airport’s passenger traffic has declined by nearly 20 percent,” he writes, “and paying for the terminal has become problematic.”

Such payment includes buyers and sellers. The former, airport businesses from air carriers to fliers and their meeters and greeters, are sad. To say they are throwing good money after bad captures it.

By contrast, the sellers of Terminal B’s expansion project are glad. They are the consultants, construction companies, designers and financiers. Some of their names are: Corgan Associates, Inc., Fentress Architects and Turner Construction

This brief look back is the context for Mr. Acree’s alleged “hubris” in the Terminal B project. Looking below Walters’ take on this individual’s character, we see an underlying clash of interests between buyers and sellers that drives the overbuilding of Sacramento’s airport.

The rocky and rough process of infrastructure expansion occurs across our economy, now and before. From the railroad construction boom and bust after the U.S. Civil War to the overbuilding of commercial and residential real estate before the crash of 2007-08 and Great Recession, expanding infrastructure for which inadequate demand exists recurs.

Capitalist ideology prefers to ignore its overbuilding trend. To do otherwise might de-legitimate a system that places profits before people. What horror!

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

More articles by:

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

March 20, 2019
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
Dean Baker
In Praise of Budget Deficits
Howard Lisnoff
Want Your Kids to Make it Big in the World of Elite Education in the U.S.?
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Foreign Policy is Based on Confrontation and Malevolence
John W. Whitehead
Pity the Nation: War Spending is Bankrupting America
Priti Gulati Cox
“Maria! Maria! It Was Maria That Destroyed Us!” The Human Story
Missy Comley Beattie
On Our Knees
Mike Garrity – Carole King
A Landscape Lewis and Clark Would Recognize is Under Threat
Robert Fantina
The Media-Created Front Runners
Tom Clifford
Bloody Sunday and the Charging of Soldier F
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail