The United State’s public infrastructure is in a sorry state. Long-neglected roads and bridges are being left to crumble, unfunded. Drivers are forced to risk their necks for the simple fact that the government–at all levels–won’t perform basic repairs for fear of appearing “tax-and-spend.” That same government has the obligation to “provide reasonably safe roadways for the public.” We should hold them to their duty.
According to a ThinkProgress article from this January, “8,000 bridge are at risk of collapse but still carry 29 million drivers each day.” The United States once had an ultra-modern highway system, the envy of the world. Now, things are falling apart, and no one wants to take the initiative to get things going. The United States has not been so stingy with infrastructure spending since 1947. Right-wing fearmongering about “big government spending” prevents us getting from anywhere.
Gas tax increases, the former standard method of funding our roads, have become a taboo topic.
The Future: Selling Our Safety To The Highest Bidder?
Of course, the conservative response has been “privatise!” The Washington Post outlined the various private-sector plans for infrastructure care which states have attempted. The article describes a “patchwork” of different roads, rending regulation and and maintenance incomprehensible. Does anyone really think corporate interests are going to be more invested in citizen safety than the government is? Governments, at least, have an ostensible responsibility to look after people. Big companies don’t even have to pretend to care about anything but their bottom line.
So What Should Be Done?
Updating our infrastructure will take a lot of money. We used to be able to raise this money from gas tax increases. Those don’t happen anymore. Anti-tax ideologies make the issue a non-starter for many conservative congressmen, who can then run home and tell their constituents about how bravely they fought the “federal interests” who are in fact just trying to keep them safe. It’s easy to say “no new taxes.” It’s a tougher sell to say “endanger us regularly!” This is a huge problem, and progressives need to spread the word that gas taxes–and their accompanying infrastructure improvements–are actually in our economic and safety interests.
Speaking of economic interests, updating our roads and bridges would create enormous job opportunities. The roads aren’t going to build themselves, and we could put a tons of people back to work. In a 60 Minutes documentary, Richard Trumka “president of the AFL-CIO, [states] that every billion dollars spent on transportation infrastructure would create 35,000 well-paying jobs.”
If politicians would stop caving to anti-tax pressure, the United States could once again develop the sort of top-notch road system it used to boast of.
Change needs to start with you. Organize a letter-writing campaign to let your elected officials know what the public wants. Donate money to progressive groups agitating for change. Get involved with local labor groups who understand the importance of these issues for everyday, hard-working people. Even posting articles on social media sites and having discussions with your friends gets momentum going.