Whether out of nationalism or devotion to one’s fellow countrymen, it is expected that a nation’s citizens opt to protect each other despite any particular political ideology or religious tendencies. Furthermore, a nation’s citizens expect their leaders to go above and beyond partisan politics to provide an innocuous environment whether it regards clean air and water or safety in moving about the country. Indeed, a nation’s commerce is dependent on reliable transportation systems to move goods from manufacturing centers to consumers and without safe and dependable roads, bridges, and waterways, business would revert to localized merchant-provided goods and services that would bring even robust commerce to a screeching halt. However, disregarding the commercial aspect of reliable transportation is one thing, but neglecting the safety of the population as they travel to their jobs, go shopping, or take their children to and from school is inexcusable and demonstrates a level of contempt worthy of a murderous dictator. Meet Mitch McConnell and Congressional Republicans.
As America’s transportation infrastructure rapidly crumbles and deteriorates due to Republicans’ reluctance to fund critical bridge and highway improvements, President Obama is relentlessly pushing Congress to create jobs and boost the economy by allocating funds to repair America’s aging transportation systems. At the forefront of opposition to safe roads and bridges is Kentucky Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who consistently claims America can ill-afford to guarantee safe passage for commercial endeavors or working Americans.
After President Obama called for infrastructure improvements in his speech on jobs last week, McConnell claimed the president’s plan was a re-election plan and not intended to stimulate the economy, create jobs, or address the country’s deteriorating bridges and roads. McConnell has stated previously that Republicans “agree that we must bring America’s infrastructure up to 21st century standards,” but his tireless efforts to block reinvestment in our infrastructure belie his insistence that Republicans care about anything other than tax cuts for the wealthy. In 2010, Senate Republicans blocked a jobs plan that focused on infrastructure improvements that would have helped alleviate high unemployment numbers as well as repair bridges in every state. Now, a major bridge in McConnell’s home state has been closed because inspectors discovered deficiencies, including cracks in a load-bearing part of its structure. Load bearing cracks are the greatest hazard to bridges and are often responsible for catastrophic failures that guarantee countless lives will be lost when they collapse.
When Democrats proposed that infrastructure improvements be included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, McConnell and Republicans fought to focus the money on tax cuts instead of improving roads and bridges. In Kentucky, 34% of the state’s bridges are considered structurally deficient or obsolete and the Sherman Minton Bridge closure means traffic is re-routed to another bridge slated for inspection for structural deficiencies. If McConnell stays true to his tax cut mentality, the latest bridge closure will remain permanent. Kentucky transportation officials said the bridge will remain closed indefinitely; there are no cost estimates for repairing the bridge.
Kentucky is certainly not the only state with structurally deficient bridges, and studies show that to bring America’s bridges up to safe standards it will cost about $2 trillion. An investment of that amount will guarantee millions of jobs and bring in much needed tax revenue as well as put the economy in great shape. To give perspective between Democratic proposals to help the economy and create jobs and Republicans, Mitt Romney’s economic plan includes $6.6 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations; with interest on tax cuts of that magnitude, the figure balloons to $7.8 trillion over ten years. Americans should be insulted and outraged that Republicans prefer to spend $7.8 trillion of taxpayer dollars for the wealthy’s entitlements than $2 trillion to guarantee safe transportation and put millions of Americans back to work. However, Republicans have no intention of putting Americans back to work under any circumstances because it does not benefit the wealthy. Americans deserve safe roads and bridges and it is a nationwide problem Republicans will not remedy.
In Speaker John Boehner’s state, Ohio, 27% of bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete. House majority leader Eric Cantor’s home state of Virginia has 26% of the bridges that are crumbling or obsolete. In Arizona, Jon Kyl’s state, 12% of the bridges are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and that includes 25 bridges in the national highway system.” Arizona boasts the eighth-highest traffic fatality rate in the nation because 21% of rural roads and bridges are considered poor.
In House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s home state of California, 30% of the bridges are structurally deficient or fundamentally obsolete and 24 of those are in McCarthy’s district. California is “19th in the nation for percentage of rural bridges that are structurally deficient, and over 66% of its major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.” In most metropolitan areas in California, city officials have stopped disputing automobile suspension damage because the roads are in such bad states of disrepair. The only improvements in recent memory have come from President Obama’s stimulus; Republicans in the state’s legislature continue to claim the stimulus did not create any jobs in California.
The American people should be aware by now that Republicans just do not care about jobs, the economy, or safety on roads and bridges. However, they do care about the wealthy and perpetuating their entitlements at the population’s expense in tax dollars and lives. It is apropos that in Kentucky, a major bridge closure accompanies Mitch McConnell’s belief that tax cuts for the wealthy are more prudent than safe passage over the Ohio River. If McConnell’s rhetoric is any indication, he will continue to lead Republicans in obstructing infrastructure improvements and the subsequent jobs because President Obama proposed them. Kentucky residents should think of McConnell when they are falling to their deaths off a collapsing bridge and remember that it was more important to give wealthy Americans their entitlements than repair load-bearing structural supports.
It is possible that McConnell’s family avoids crumbling bridges because they know he could not care less about their safety. He certainly does not care about Kentucky residents or he would welcome the jobs and increased revenue infrastructure improvements would bring to the state. McConnell is the representation of contempt for the American people’s safety, and he has led Republicans in their obstructionism to anything President Obama proposes to help job creation, the economy, and the American people. Perhaps if McConnell doesn’t care about his human relatives, he may care for his turtle-brethren when a bridge collapses and crushes terrapins in the water. However, contemptuous men like McConnell only care about the wealthy and their corporations so even his turtle brothers and sisters are not safe. McConnell represents the worst in American politics for sitting idly by waiting for bridge collapses, roads to crumble, more job losses, and cars falling into the rivers. Hopefully, Republicans will come to their senses before calamity strikes, but that is highly unlikely because it is more important to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy than create millions of jobs or prevent a catastrophic loss of life.