Wednesday, September 19, 2007

American bridges are falling down, falling down...

After the Minneapolis bridge collapse, our local paper ran an in-depth investigative piece about local bridges that were in need of repair. Most of the bridges in Jackson County, in fact, were found in crumbling condition.

A few days later, some yahoo wrote in condemning the paper, saying the information provided gave aid to terrorists. Supposedly, bin Laden is reading the Jackson Citizen Patriot for ideas on where to strike next.

"Gosh," I thought, "why fear terrorists when government negligence is doing a fine job of killing Americans?"

So I did what any proud, patriotic American would do: I wrote the above thoughts in a letter to the editor.

But locally it would fall on deaf ears. Here in Jackson County, founding place of Mr. Bush's party, public ownership and maintenance of infrastructure is an afterthought - especially where budgets are concerned.

You see, there are some in this country that feel businesses would do a better job of running and maintaining our roads, subways, and bridges. The government is doing a terrible job of keeping up repairs, so why not let the free market try things for a while?

When you have people running the government who harbor disdain for government in the first place, however, it's no wonder bridges are falling down. The order of the day is "privatize everything," (you know, like those honest folks at Enron did in California) because we all know greed makes the world go round. If you don't trust the government, and you're in government, you can really do some damage.

I almost think it's a sinister plan by free market capitalists and some Republican lawmakers: let the country fall apart, and offer business as the solution.

But really, the whole thing could be fixed by (a) a person who knows how to manage a government, (b) a proper budget not made anorexic by tax cuts, or (c) an FDR-style "new New Deal" plan to fix things up.

Think about it. The country's infrastructure went throught the greatest period of growth after the Roosevelts had a vision of parks, highways (Eisenhower helped with that one), bridges, and dams built by Americans to help Americans. The public paid for it because it benefitted everyone. And what a beautiful country we had.

Infrastructure like our radio waves and subway tunnels actually belong to the people, and the government leases the right to use them to companies. Some want companies to own them outright, however, because there's tons of money to be made in fees and tolls.

I can see the idea: competition spurs the best ideas and healthy competition, and everything ends up improving.

But that's not always the case.

I like the idea of the people owning the things we use better. All that's required is a healthy dose of patriotism and some concern for your fellow citizens to take care of the parks, roads, and rails. Put people in government who actually know how to run the government, and not fools who want to dismantle the public infrastructure.

In my book, if you let these systems go to waste, you're a traitor to the country.

My friends Josh and PJ have a pretty conservative uncle, Uncle Robert, who used to tell me that government should be responsible for a few things: delivering the mail, maintaining the roads, and keeping the country safe from harm.

So what happens when the only get one out of those three?

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