Sunday, March 29, 2015

As its infrastructure crumbles, West Virginia embraces anti-infrastructure Republicans

(This is a road in Mineral County, West Virginia - full of potholes, ruptured pavement, and alligator cracking. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, "Driving on roads in need of repair costs West Virginia motorists $583 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $469.29 per motorist." Photo by Brent McKee, 2015.)

  (This is a larger road, a few miles from the road in the first picture. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 12% of West Virgnia's major roads are in poor condition. Photo by Brent McKee, 2015.)

(This is a post office parking lot, a few miles from the two roads above. If you value your car's suspension system, you have to be very careful where you enter and exit. Photo by Brent McKee, 2015.)

(This is a bridge right next to the post office. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, West Virginia has 944 bridges that are structurally deficient. This seems like one of them. Photo by Brent McKee, 2015.)

(This is a rusted & cracked metal connection piece on the bridge. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, West Virginia has 1,570 bridges that are functionally obsolete. I don't know if this is one of them, but that crack can't be a good sign. Photo by Brent McKee, 2015.)

In recent years, West Virginia has changed from a blue state (Democratic) to a red state (Republican) (see, e.g., "Goodbye West Virginia," Slate, October 29, 2014).

Even as a progressive, it's hard for me to blame them. After all, many Democrats (including Obama) have been so cozy with Corporate America, and so easy on white collar crime, that their "middle-class" and "main street" messages have been rendered impotent. Still, it's ironic that West Virginia has embraced a political party that is so the same time that it could really use some infrastructure assistance. 

When President Obama recently proposed infrastructure upgrades for the nation, funded with taxes on super-wealthy Americans and taxes on multi-billion dollar corporations, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan shut the proposal down, calling it "envy economics." The GOP also blocked Senator Bernie Sanders' attempt to fix America's crumbling infrastructure, sneering "That’s not the way we do it around here." In fact, Republicans have been blocking infrastructure bills for a long time now (see, e.g., "Senate GOP blocks $60B Obama infrastructure plan," USA Today, November 3, 2011). 

In 2014, Time magazine's senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald, correctly noted that "no matter how much Republicans say they care about infrastructure, they’re not going to accept any infrastructure proposals that come from President Barack Obama...Republicans say nice things about infrastructure but haven’t shown any interest in paying for it. As a result, the nation has failed to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest more in our overcrowded airports, outdated railways and flimsy bridges."

Indeed, the only type of funding for infrastructure that Republicans will accept are the dozens of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines that are burdening America's shrinking middle-class (and the poor) at the state & local level (see my blog post, "Ten Ways The Political Right Is Vacuuming Money Out Of Your Wallet With Their Trickle-Down Economics. Welcome To 'The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo.'")

West Virginia may have lost its love for the modern Democratic Party, but it should still remember its "deep-seated, long-lasting loyalty to the party of FDR" (i.e., New Deal Democrats). In my next blog post, I'll highlight what the New Deal did for West Virginia.

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