Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Minnesota bridge collapse is terrible

.. but there's something more terrible still than dozens of automobiles under water and concrete and rebar, still holding their drivers and passengers.

And that is, that it's going to happen again. And again. And soon.

The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy -- while the country is at war -- has forced the underfunding of the maintenance of America's infrastructure. Just as the Army Corps of Engineers couldn't spend the money in New Orleans to fix the problems with the levees that they knew existed long before Katrina ever came ashore, the DOT likely knew there were problems with that bridge, but the money wasn't there to fix it. Now how do I know this?

Well, because The Onion has a rather prescient --and now cruel -- parody of it, from two years ago.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (yes, he's a Republican) recently vetoed a nickel-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax in his state. The funds were earmarked for road maintenance. It wouldn't have saved the 35W bridge or all those people who were killed or injured yesterday, but I bet he's feeling a little sick to his stomach anyway, and not just for the Minnesotans whose lives were lost.

Truthfully this isn't all Pawlenty's or even Dubya's fault, though the worst is yet to come. This mantra of more and more tax cuts goes all the way back to Reagan, and thus the neglect reaches back to the '80's. PBS recently detailed America's crumbling infrastructure, but "nobody could have predicted" anything like this, could they? Rational thought says you don't sacrifice a city, you don't sit by while people suffer, you don't worry about bridges collapsing in the USA -- all in the name of tax breaks. Doesn't it?

Forget about a terrorist attack; how bad do you think it will it be the next time an underground steam pipe first installed in 1924 explodes, or a bridge collapses, or a hurricane or an earthquake hits?

How slow, will we learn, is the FEMA response this time?

How many more people are going to have to die for this tax-cuts-at-all-cost mindset to change?

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