Home > The Failing
The Failingby Open-Publishing - Tuesday 7 August 2007
The failure of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis was an obvious failure of infrastructure, of deferred maintenance, of it’s not in the budget for this fiscal year. But over looked is the fact that this is our second warning not our first. The levees failing in New Orleans was an identical failure. The warnings were well known and just like the I-35 Bridge and hundreds of others they fell on deaf ears.
Our politicians like recalcitrant school children refuse to learn their lessons and spend the days instead dreaming out the window of their next election or their next high office or their sweetest campaign contribution. But test day came when the levees failed in New Orleans and test day came when the I-35 Bridge collapsed. The politicians failed miserably yet the politician never die in their negligent handy work. You can’t blame this on the Bush administration alone, they are guilty enough, but no more than administrations going as far back as Jimmy Carter.
Both failures almost symbolically at opposite ends of America’s greatest river is an attempt to tell us that the problem is nationwide, from North to South, East to West.
Since Ronald Reagan ran for the Presidency on the slogan, “It’s morning in America.” Ronny was going to get big government off your back! Highway and bridge repair was renamed pork barrel spending and tax cuts were financed by cutting pork barrel spending.
What’s a politician to do? Every one cheers for tax cuts and cutting waste! How could a politician get elected on a platform of, “I want to spend more tax money to fix bridges an infrastructure!" It’s been tried and they lose every time, until the bridge falls in or the levee breaks no one gives a damn. And we as a society are just as responsible as our lazy politicians. It’s fun to play Santa Claus and pass out tax refund checks but no one likes collecting for the United Way.
The nation bought into a false ideology, that you can have your cake and refunds too. That the proposition isn’t guns or butter but guns and butter! We have become a nation paying the minimum on our national credit card. That we will pay that bill next month or next year and fix that school or repair that bridge at some later date. Then a levee fails or the bridge falls in and we look at our report card so full of F’s and we ask, how could this happen?
I am reminded of a Soviet railway official who went to the leadership of the party with his plan to increase the load limit on Russian rail cars by 10%. Fully convinced that he would be promoted or rewarded for his genius in improving efficiency he was shocked when he was instead arrested. The commissar explained, “You thought you were pretty clever and that we were too stupid to catch on to your scheme to destroy the entire Soviet rail system. But we see through you all right! For several years there would be increased efficiency but then the rails and the roadbed would wear out prematurely costing us billions of Rubles to replace and destroying the peoples rail system. He was charged and sentenced with wrecking and sent to work in the gulags.
Two years later a communist party official developed a plan to increase efficiency on the Soviet rail system. They would increase the load limits on the railcars by 10%; the plan was hailed as a break through in Soviet efficiency and the author was awarded the order of Lenin. The efficiency was short lived and the increased weight caused the rails and the roadbed to wear out prematurely.
Much the same as our own infrastructure, the number and load limits on trucks has risen exponentially causing increased wear and damage to the roads and bridges.
But before my friends the truckers think I’m making them the villains I’m not because every increase in a load limit is paid for with trucker’s wages. If they increase the weight limit 10% it means 10% less jobs. The trucking lobby works to maximize profits for the trucking companies the owner operator is a dying breed.
Today the trucking lobby works for lower road use and fuel taxes with no concern for the actual truckers. Beginning next year our interstates will be open to Mexican trucker drivers nationwide. The lobby that should work for better roads and safer drivers works instead for lower taxes and increasing load limits. They support free trade by importing Mexican wages aiding in the destruction not only of American roads but of American families as well.
The taxpayers who built our interstate system are gone, their union wages and manufacturing jobs trucked out to the nearest port. The strong fat young calf is now replaced by a thin aged cow her ribs showing from her retail wages. The tax policy is determined by those with the money to hire lobbyists.
Road taxes where never popular; Eisenhower had to sell the interstate system as necessary for the national defense. But soon industry caught on, tons of concrete and steel, civil engineering and site preparation and fortunes to be made. With a first class road system, trucks would be cheaper than union waged railroads. Non union trucks could operate cheaper than union trucks without the higher wages or retirement benefits. Then the railroads fought back, you could place three or four trailers on a single rail car.
Three or four long haul loads done away with for the price of a rail car. Yet the trucks still run the roads just more locally and non-union and soon to be Mexican.
Like the Soviet rail system we sow the seeds of our own destruction for the aggrandizement and wealth of a few at the top. We dismantle the engine which created the system in the first place. The good steward is an outdated notion sacrificed on the altar to the new god efficiency.
But what graces has the new god efficiency granted to us? Lower wages, less able to afford the road taxes. A trucking lobby that uses its power and influence to subvert tax policy even to the point of their own detriment. Politicians that have instead spent an amount equal to the construction of the entire interstate system on a missile defense system. A system, that has only worked once, when they knew a head of time exactly where the missile to be shot down would be. Not to mention that the amount spent on the war on terror in the past six years is enough to fix every road and bridge in the country. Now the terror comes not from Muslims fundamentalists but engineering fundamentals not from terrorists crossing our borders but bridges crossing our rivers.
Pull back; take a moment to look at the big picture. The I-35 Bridge collapse is a warning and is a terrible metaphor. Not for a failing road system or failing ideology but of a failing political system, uncaring and unresponsive to the people they’ve sworn to protect. They have no higher purpose then to protect us, yet the system now meets behind closed doors and tells us what’s good for us while ignoring us and awarding each other medals for what good jobs they are doing. Katrina was the wake up call the I-35 collapse yet another warning that what failed wasn’t a bridge but America itself.