Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Five years ago today...

I was riding the light rail to my then girlfriend (now wife) Katie's apartment after work and saw a long line of emergency vehicles near the Metrodome. When I arrived there the news that the 35W bridge over the Mississippi had collapsed was already on every media outlet and I sat dumbstruck that such a horrific event could happen so close to where I lived. At the time it seemed to be a metaphor for everything that going wrong at both the state and national level, as GOP politicians twiddled their thumbs while the country was literally crumbling. I hope then that it would be the wake-up call the public needed to finally remember that investment in infrastructure is essential to maintain a well-functioning economy, but so far the level of commitment necessary to make any meaningful dent in the number of bridges and miles of roads in desperate need of repair or replacement has not yet materialized. Some folks get it, and there has been no lack of effort to create and pass the legislation to authorize funding for all of the projects that are waiting to be done, but unfortunately we are still being held hostage by that small slice of people who will do anything to avoid having to pay their fair share of the upkeep for this project we call civilization, but nonetheless continue to profit massively off of a system that they have rigged in their favor.

In Minnesota I am hopeful that the current electoral cycle will bring in a crop of legislators who understand that the provision of infrastructure is one of government's primary responsibilities and will raise the revenue necessary to make it happen. Nationally, I am not so sure, which is a shame because last I checked interest rates remain at historic lows, so it is the perfect time to finance projects that will reap benefits for a generation. Not only would the economy suffer less loss from delays and inefficiencies in the transport of goods and people, but all of the people hired to work on the projects would have some money to spend for a change, and that can't be bad for the economy, can it? At this point anyone with an R in front of their name has their fingers in their ears to prevent any such heresy from penetrating their thick skulls since, as Upton Sinclair once said, it is difficult to get somebody to believe something when their paycheck (in this case, campaign contributions from the .01%) depends on them not believing it. Just one more reason why in the short term we need to use the system that exists to remove the people blocking meaningful action by their kowtowing to the wealthy few, and then reform that system to ensure that the paralysis that is currently its defining characteristic never plagues us again.

I didn't know anyone who was injured or killed in the collapse, and that number was thankfully much lower than it could have been. But we owe it to them to make sure we don't have any bridges that fall down again.   

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