John Young
Special to the Daily

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May 29, 2013
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Tea party vision: An America in pieces

If one could paint a portrait of America under the leadership of today’s fiscal disservatives, it would be the sorry scene in the Skagit River 60 miles north of Seattle.

There, a section of the bridge conveying Interstate 5 soaks like a tea bag tossed in the brine.

I wonder how many anti-tax types are screaming that a key Northwest conduit is crippled. Give them a few seconds and they’ll pin the matter on President Obama, ask for a special prosecutor.

Thousand one, thousand two . . .

If the picture of a shattered bridge is unsightly, consider a chart produced by the Federal Reserve Bank showing total public spending on construction. It has dipped to a 20-year low.

Now, this spending level might seem prudent, public debt and all that. But if prudence is or ever was a byword for today’s fiscal disservativism, be reminded: The last time public domestic construction dipped dramatically it was at the height of two wars that resulted in some $140 billion in infrastructure investment — in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve heard the 2009 stimulus bill depicted as full of pork. Maybe it was. One thing to say in its defense, however, was that it paid for things on these shores, rather than on locales rent to pieces by “shock and awe.”

Back to our continent and the bridge over — or, now in — the Skagit:

The Federal Highway Administration last year listed it as “functionally obsolete.” But, then, it is just one of tens of thousands so classified. Worse: About 66,000 are “structurally deficient.”

Two years ago Obama proposed doing something about this national condition: $50 billion for infrastructure projects, $10 billion to create an infrastructure bank, under the Rebuild America Jobs Act. Did someone say jobs? In Washington state alone, where that bridge sits in the drink, the bill would have created 9,600 of them.

A Republican filibuster blocked this measure in the U.S. Senate, though it had majority support.

Would it have driven up the deficit? No. It would have been funded by a seven-tenths of a percent tax on people making over $1 million. Those dollars are so much more important, you understand, for people who have more than they need than for America to meet its needs.

“If you are locked into an ideology that government is bad and ineffective, you have a stake in proving that to be the case,” writes former Sen. Gary Hart in The Huffington Post. “As always, it is up to the American people to decide what they want. But we must make up our minds. We cannot have a government that works by electing those who want it not to work.”

Obama is accused of being a socialist. Some joke. Philosophically, he is more like Eisenhower than Stalin. Eisenhower knew how crucial America’s infrastructure was to its future. It became his signature. Similarly, energy conservation and alternative fuels, every bit as crucial, have been one of Obama’s.

Eisenhower also knew that every dollar spent on arms and armies was a dollar taken away from every other American need.

Today’s deficit hawks were silent as dime-store props as the nation spent itself into a Soviet-style hole last decade in its military adventures. Then they went ballistic when a new president acted on his campaign promise to insure working-poor Americans against health catastrophe.

Fortunately, in 2012 Americans did not buy the bridge that Mitt Romney was selling which would have resulted in tea party control of all things fiscal.

Still, as Hart says, we must choose — between a society that has the resources to meet its needs or, as the anti-tax set would do, one that simply ignores them.

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated May 29, 2013 07:30PM Published Jun 3, 2013 01:03PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.