Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bridge to Somewhere

The Brent Spence Bridge connects Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky to John Boehner's state of Ohio and both connect to our state of New Hampshire in one very important way, and that is through the great state of mind of Herbert Hoover: Government cannot be the solution.

The bridge carries a stunning percentage of the load of truck traffic from the upper midwest but there are back ups lasting hours as the huge volume of traffic in trucks and passenger vehicles try to squeeze through a structure meant to carry less than an half the traffic it now bears.

Now you would think, well this is a no brainer, build a new bridge or at least expand this one.

Then again, consider the brains of the Republican senator from Kentucky and the Republican Representative, and Speaker of the House, from Ohio.

The people on both sides of the bridge cry out: "Build a bridge," and the Boehner/ McConnell braintrust says, "No taxes."

The people upstream from the bridge, in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana say, "We are strangling, build a bridge!" And McConnell/Boehner say, "Government is the problem, not the solution."

"Our businesses are withering on the vine because we cannot get our goods to market," cry the small business people who want the bridge. "We must make government live within its means," say the Republicans.

Now, I suppose you might argue, okay build the damn bridge, without taxes, let the private sector build it.

That's been suggested for roads. Sort of like the railroads--sell the private companies land cheap an let the barons of industry profit. Trouble is bridges for profit mean tolls and the whole idea is to keep traffic flowing, not holding it up, so, in general, bridges tend to be non toll structures. They are things which connect us, and so Democrats like them on an existential basis and Republicans, who are more fond of moats and walled communities and country clubs where the rich can hide from the hoi polloi and not sully their manicured fingernails with the dirt of the land, well, Republicans really don't like bridges much, existentially speaking. They are not bridge builders.

Actually, as in most things, there is symbolism and there is nuance.

When it comes to bridges, even Republicans can sometimes see that government spending may not always be bad. In fact--I cannot believe this story, but it was on the internet so it must be true--Rand Paul is flying to Kentucky on Air Force One with the President, (despite the cost to the Treasury of the airplane feul, )and he says he's doing this to lobby the President to spend some money on building a new bridge.

Imagine that! He says if the President can lobby the "Democrat party" for the funds, he'll lobby the Republicans.

Of course, if I were at the President's elbow I'd whisper into his ear: "Tell him you'll lobby for the bridge if he can say 'The Democratic Party' three times." I mean, the man is asking for help and he still can't bring himself to say Democratic.

These Republicans, once upon a time they could not pronounce "Negro" and said "Nigrah" instead. Now they take great glee in referring to their opponents as "The Democrat Party" rather than the name the Democrats use. These are the same guys who kept calling Muhammed Ali Cassius Clay. They never understood Howard Cosell, when he said, "In this country a man has a right to be called by whatever name he chooses for himself."

But back to the bridge: When Republicans want something, well maybe there is a place for government. But for jobs, the environment, the middle class, healthcare, Social Security: We have to live within our means; No taxes; cut spending is the only answer to jobs, the economy and the deficit.

We are for the private sector, the Republicans say. Let the private sector do it.

But the reality is, when the public sector builds a beltway around Washington, DC, the private sector booms. When the public sector builds a subway and light rail system, wherever a subway station pokes its nose through to the street above, the small business spring up.

If you build it, they will come.

But the Republicans have decided we cannot do anything here in Congress, other than cross our arms and stamp our feet and shout "No!" (Except for bridges in Kentucky.)

No to Medicare, Kelly Ayotte says. It costs too much. No to bridges, if that means spending money.

What ever happened to, "It takes money to make money?"

I guess that's a concept which is a bridge to nowhere.

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