Tears of Sorrow for Minneapolis; Tears of Anger for Failing Infrastructure
As most of you know by now, last evening during rush hour the most highly traveled bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed sending approximately 50 vehicles plunging into the Mississippi River. The fatality count currently stands at four but there are upwards of 50 people still missing. There were over 75 injuries.
People of Minneapolis, please know that my heart is breaking for you. This is the type of tragedy that should never happen in America and that leads me to the heart of this post.
In days gone by tragedies like this didn't happen here in America. Our country has prided itself in the strength of its infrastructure since its inception. But, oh, how the times have changed. Our infrastructure is failing and we have conservative government to thank for it.
This all began in the early 80's during the Reagan administration. Reagan strutted around touting that "the nine most frightening words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' " He set out to convince us that we needed a change; that all the Democrats did was "tax and spend". He proclaimed Reaganonmics would fix all of that - tax less but keep the same level of service. He began cutting taxes all the while growing the largest deficit in the history of this country. The conservative Congress continued the chanting, "Less government, lower taxes" and it enchanted the voters as if a magician had waved a pocket watch before their eyes.
So for over 20 years now the conservatives have based their campaigns on making taxes lower and have convinced the taxpayers that they were actually slowing the growth of the government in the process, which was an out-and-out lie. Government was shrinking in places like infrastructure and health care and growing exponentially in places like defense.
Fast forward 20+ years and we have the Bu$h administration - Mr. Tax Cut, himself. He cut back our taxes alright then lied us into a war that we are currently bleeding $4,000.00 per second on. That's right, I said "per SECOND". (You can find the full report in .pdf form here) We are also spending $12 million per month on infrastructure in Iraq and we all know what a fine mess that is. He's grown defense so much that this country now spends more for defense than all the other nations in the world combined. Add to that the fact that Bu$h has now amassed the largest deficit yet; more than all administrations before him combined, including Reagan's mess. With us paying less taxes, our children and grandchildren will be footing this bill for years to come plus having to rebuild the infrastructure.
Let's talk specifically about that bridge in Minneapolis now. It was built 40 years ago in 1967. In 1967, the U.S. population was just over 200 million. We surpassed 300 million last year - a growth of 50%. The number of cars and trucks that travel the highways here has grown immensely and those vehicles have all gotten bigger and heavier through the years.
I happen to live at the opposite end of the same river this bridge spanned. Twice a day I cross a very similar bridge here in Baton Rouge. Our "new" bridge is a year younger than the bridge in Minneapolis. It's probably the most traveled bridge here in Louisiana, as it is part of I10, our state's major thoroughfare. Today as I sat in rush hour traffic on top of that bridge, I thought about Minneapolis and realized that the same thing could have just as easily happened here and I got angry. Angry at the federal administration that cares more about oil and war than it does infrastructure and angry at our own governor here in Louisiana. Two weeks ago she went on a vetoing spree and put a big red X on 13 bills the legislature passed. While I support her vetoing things such as vouchers for private schools and ridiculous tax cuts, one of her vetoes was this:
Senate Bill 146 by Sen. Reggie Dupré, D-Houma, would have created a new Windfall Highway, Infrastructure and Protection Fund with excess mineral revenues. The money would have been dedicated to project construction.
“I am concerned about dedicating yet more revenues in the state’s budget,” Blanco said.
Dupré said the veto was not an easy decision for Blanco to make because people in her administration were divided on the issue.
Well, I'm certainly glad to know that at least some folks working in the governor's office are thinking clearly. The state legislators have until midnight tonight to vote whether or not they are coming back for a veto session to try to override Blanco's decisions.
I tried to find a good photo of our bridge during rush hour but all I found was this one. This is the ramp coming down from the bridge with the upper level in the background. This was taken during the Katrina evacuation but trust me, all it takes is one good wreck to make it look like this during rush hour.
All this administration talks about is Homeland Security. Homeland security has to include infrastructure and, to date, it hasn't. I make a pretty decent salary and a good chunk of it goes to taxes every month. I quit complaining about how much I pay in taxes when I realized all the things my tax dollars were responsible for. I would rather pay the same amount of taxes knowing that I can cross that bridge safely every day than have a few dollars back in my pocket and cross in fear.
Now get ready because by tomorrow when the conservatives wake up from all their crying over the Minneapolis bridge failure, they're going to start pointing fingers at liberals for making this a political issue. But I tell you it HAS to be a political issue in order to keep this from happening anywhere in America again.
Minneapolis, I am so very sorry that you had to suffer this horrible tragedy. It is my hope that it wakes us all up from a 20+ year trance and makes us realize that paying taxes in order to insure things like a safe infrastructure isn't the evil Reagan and his minions have tricked us into believing it to be all these years.