Friday, May 1, 2015

GOP / Tea Party Infrastructure vs. New Deal Infrastructure

(Infrastructure, GOP / Tea Party style. Photo by Brent McKee.)

(Infrastructure, New Deal style. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's crumbling, pot-holed roads a "D" letter grade, noting that "Forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually" and also that "32% of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing U.S. motorists who are traveling on deficient pavement $67 billion a year, or $324 per motorist, in additional repairs and operating costs." 

Unfortunately, our Congress is now controlled by the GOP / Tea Party, and their anti-government, no-taxes-on-the-wealthy ideology is making it very difficult to fund America's infrastructure (see, e.g., "GOP Lawmakers Divided on Highway Funding As Trust Fund Expiration Looms," Huffington Post, April 30, 2015). As Time magazine's senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald, pointed out a year ago, "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the nation has failed to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest more in our overcrowded airports, outdated railways and flimsy bridges." 

We also know that the GOP / Tea Party has repeatedly blocked infrastructure initiatives by President Obama, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, and others.

So absurd is the GOP / Tea Party's anti-tax philosophy that some Republicans in Congress have even suggested a tax cut to pay for infrastructure improvements. And--to add idiocy to the madness--at the same time Republicans are wringing their hands over how to pay for infrastructure improvements, they're working hard to eliminate the estate tax on the wealthiest of the wealthy, thereby depriving the nation of hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue over the course of the next several years. Things are no better at the state level where, for example, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (a Republican, and a Tea Party favorite) is raiding his state's highway fund to subsidize tax breaks for the wealthy.

Not every conservative has jumped down the rabbit hole of course. Matthew Dowd, a prominent Republican strategist had this to say several months ago: "...we need to have a well-paying jobs program tied to infrastructure improvements administered locally by cities, counties and states where people still trust government to get the job done. And this should be funded by tax policies at the federal level which put a much bigger burden on the wealthy in this country." But most conservative politicians have jumped down the rabbit hole, so Dowd's advice has been, and will be, completely ignored. 

During the New Deal, things were far, far different. For example, the WPA built, repaired, or improved 650,000 miles of roadway, enough roadwork to go around the planet 26 times. Throw in the Public Works Administration, the Civil Works Administration, and other New Deal programs and we're talking about a million miles of roadwork in 11 years - most of it federally funded, and a good deal of it still being utilized today - often by the very same conservatives who are telling us that federal government spending is wasteful.

Even Ronald Reagan, the conservative icon, recognized what most conservative politicians do not today - that infrastructure is important and worth the investment. Reagan wrote: "The WPA was one of the most productive elements of FDR's alphabet soup of agencies because it put people to work building roads, bridges, and other gave men and women a chance to make some money along with the satisfaction of knowing they earned it" (from Reagan's autobiography, Ronald Reagan: An American Life).

So, the next time you hit a pothole don't yell out in anger, "Jesus!" Instead put the blame where the blame belongs, and yell out "Republicans!"

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