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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Politicizing a Collapsed Bridge

John Nichols is one example of many who are hyping the need to repair and replace our nation’s bridges. We all have heard for years that tens of thousands of bridges are in need of repair. Have any of us doubted that? We all know every structure wears out to the point of needing repair or replacement.

It is one thing to call attention objectively to this fact. It is another to jump on the bandwagon conveniently at the critical time of a failed bridge. Nichols politicizes basic infrastructure. It’s Bush’s fault that so much money is going to Iraq instead of into bridges. Has Nichols ever called for repair of bridges based on sheer need before this tragedy? If not, then why now? Of course, now is the golden opportunity to point fingers. It’s more fun to play with political footballs than make a rationale, sustained, non-political argument for doing our duty.

The Democrats are just lucky the I-35 bridge did not collapse during the watch of a Dem Minnesota Governor and a Dem US President. The luck of the Dems is comparable to the chance that one person rode the bridge down and another stopped in the nick of time or just drove off the bridge onto safe ground as it was collapsing. While many drivers and riders who made it safely will experience survivor’s guilt, the Dems will sense no guilt for shooting off their mouths. Both the last Presidential and Gubernatorial races were very close. It could have been Dems in both seats today. And then what? Should the Republicans politicize failed infrastructure as if it’s the Dems’ fault?

The Dems are just as guilty as a party as the Republicans are for failing to heed the objective call for a long time concerning aging bridges. Governments, lead by elected, appointed and hired people, have a propensity for building new while failing to maintain the existing, for expanding without preserving the current infrastructure.

Governments at all levels have a propensity for taking money that should go for basics and diverting it to unneeded, pet projects. Currently, national politicians are taking advantage of the defense spending bill to attach more than a thousand earmarks to get their pork. Of course, who wants to earmark money for repair of a bridge? That is not glamorous.

Why do the politicizers always want to attack the defense budget as if it is the well-spring for all the money needed to fix the infrastructure? The defense budget is very small compared to the national social budgets. Why not cut the social budget and increase the bridge budget? A Dem is not wired to do that. A Dem wants to cut defense spending and increase taxes to solve any problem. In Minnesota, the road and bridge budget is small compared to the social and education budgets. Why can’t we work with the same amount of money and cut the pie differently? That won’t happen because a Dem never wants a cut in or end of a government program. Expansionism is a must.

Don’t expect anything to change. By the time the I-35 bridge is rebuilt, the yapping hyenas will be hot on the trail of some new crisis that requires new taxes and is an opportunity to lambast a Republican administration. As luck will have it, another bridge will collapse sometime during a Dem’s administration, but it will still be Bush’s fault.

While Democrat politicians and commentators are licking their chops over the opportunity this tragedy has afforded them, they are also breathing a huge sigh of relief that it was not the result of terrorism (so they say). If the bridge had been taken down by al-Qaeda sabotage, Bush’s war on terror would have received a significant boost. As luck would have it, the Dems avoided that. And that just may very well be Bush’s fault!

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