Sunday, February 22, 2015

Potholes and Billionaires

(Potholes and alligator cracking are plaguing our nation's roads. Photo by Brent McKee.)

About a month ago, in the Huffington Post, Stephen Seufert suggested that a new CCC-type jobs program could put unemployed young adults to work installing solar panel roads. It's a great idea, considering that (a) the technological development of solar panel roads is already well underway, (b) solar panels roads could melt snow & ice and also produce energy, (c) America's roadways are falling apart, and (d) the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that youth unemployment is still very high (for example, the unemployment rate for 20-24 year-old men is currently 11.5%).

In sum, Seufert is advising us to connect the dots, addressing several problems with one overarching policy. But he is very aware of the main hurdle that confronts his proposal. After reflecting on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, he writes: "The Greatest Generation earned such a title because they worked together and contributed unique individual talents during unprecedented hardship. They understood individualism without valuing the common good/general welfare leads the world down a dark, destructive path. Decades later, we now have a healthy dose of individualism but are lacking in the common good."

Yep, that sounds about right.

(With super-rich Americans vacuuming up more and more of our nation's wealth--and with Republican & Tea Party politicians protecting them from increased taxation--precious little is available for our nation's infrastructure. For example, instead of replacing crumbling bridges, we just put patches on top of patches and hope for the best. Photo by Brent McKee.)   

Yesterday, an Associated Press article described the sorry state of America's road infrastructure, and the sorry state of its funding. Of course, we already know that Republicans at the national level are trying to "starve the beast" by reducing revenue--and trying to shrink the government by reducing spending--so they can give more tax breaks to their super-wealthy campaign donors, which ultimately has the effect of strangling federal infrastructure assistance to the states. Such actions also have the effect of shifting the revenue burden from super-wealthy Americans to middle-class & poor Americans. For example, a Republican politician in Missouri, echoing the wishes of his Republican colleagues all across the country, wants to raise his state's sales tax, a regressive tax that disproportionately hammers the middle-class & poor. He says, "You're seeing states all across the country that are looking to do something, because they realize you can't count on the federal government." No kidding? That's probably because your entire political party is trying to "to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub."

The problem behind all this foolishness, of course, is political spending by right-wing millionaires & billionaires. They give gobs of money to Republican & Tea Party politicians who, in turn, cater to their anti-government fantasies. And the rest of us suffer for it. Schools, public libraries, roads, bridges, water lines, and more are underfunded and/or falling apart. And then...WE are hit with higher taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the state & local level, in an attempt to make up the revenue difference. Yes, the most wealthy are coddled, while those who are struggling with stagnant wages, rising prices, and suffocating debt are told, again and again, "Sorry, you have to pay more...and more...and more."

Make no mistake about it: Your wallet is being drained, and your car is hitting potholes, to fulfill a political desire to please billionaires--six of whom have more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American population combined. So, don't hold your breath waiting for a federal jobs program that will hire unemployed young Americans to install high-tech roadways. Instead, open your wallet. The right-wing billionaires are sending over their political marionettes to pay you a visit...and they're bringing their vacuum cleaners.

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