Platitudes won’t fix our highways and bridges

Franklin County Republican Chair Linda Kirker made one of her occasional forays into Messenger letters yesterday.  It was a predictable screed against taxes, “big government”  and the usual suspects.  In it, she insists that the Fed’s only role under the Constitution is to secure the borders and enable international commerce.

That’s it; end of story.  

She wants the states to independently handle everything else as they see fit and, presumably, according to their means.  Classic Tea Party will-o-the-wisp speak.

What was different this time is that Emerson Lynn’s editorial on the very same page did a great job of explaining how Congress’ reluctance to arouse tax nimbys (like KIrker) has left the national highway system approaching its own fiscal cliff on August 1, and what the lawmakers’ failure to support the highway trust fund would mean for Vermonters.

If nothing more than a coincidence, it was one I couldn’t resist.  Thus my letter in response:

The accidental juxtaposition of Emerson’s editorial on the state of American highways and Linda Kirker’s letter against taxation (in Wednesday’s Messenger) was fortunate and instructive.

Despite the fact that national Republican party politics have devolved into little more than opposition simply for the sake of opposition,  I don’t doubt Ms. Kirker’s personal sincerity here.  

Nobody likes to pay taxes; but there are other things most of us don’t like any better; like potholes, crumbling road shoulders and (God forbid) collapsing bridges.  

We don’t like flying into airports where we have no assurance that our plane won’t collide with one of hundreds of others trying to land or take-off.

We wouldn’t like buying beef and having to boil it until it turned grey in order to be assured that it was safe to eat.

We don’t want to find one day that we have to pay Fed-X rates in order to have a birthday card delivered to a favorite grandchild.

We wouldn’t like it if the the fish population in Lake Champlain gradually died off and it turned into a lifeless sea of green slime.

We certainly would want the Feds to send help if a forest fire, or an earthquake, or a storm event, or a nuclear accident, or a chemical spill was far too great for local

resources to address.

We wouldn’t like it very much if America’s international trade reputation became that of a third-world incompetent because we ceased to educate our population to a basic standard.

So long as investments in infrastructure, regulation and services are essential to maintaining a population of over three-hundred-million individuals in productive coordination, we will need to pay taxes.

Ms. Kirker has embraced the romance of the Constitution, but not necessarily the sense of the federation it codified

We could have done without federal taxation entirely; but then we would have frozen national infrastructure at the nineteenth century level, and could only enjoy our “freedom” as far as regional dollars alone could take us.

In a tiny state like Vermont, that wouldn’t be very far.As anyone who becomes  a member of Costco understands, buying goods and services in bulk saves money; buying those bulk items as a group saves even more money.  The larger that group, the more economical the outcome.

Yes, securing our borders is important;  and workable solutions rather than mere posturing would be appreciated.  

Yes, international commerce is also important; but if we want to be on the selling end of that equation more than the buying end, we have to maintain a twenty-first century infrastructure.

Federal government is not the enemy of the people; it IS the people…or would be, if gerrymandering, voter suppression and “purchased” elections hadn’t shaped the current Congress into a blunt instrument  of petulant inaction.

If the Republican Party could rededicate itself to its roots in justice, compassion, fiscal responsibility and environmental protection; and if it could focus its energy on action rather than reaction, it might find credibility among more than just a frightened fringe.

If it can not, the void its truculence has created in our two party system will eventually mean collapse of more than just the national highways.

Take heart, Ms. Kirker, the undocumented immigrants you speak of are coming here from Central America because our strong federation has brought a quality of life to the U.S. of which they can only dream.

Each state in Central America is an independent nation faced with crippling poverty, corruption, violence and lawlessness.  Its only resources are those it can muster locally, which will never be enough.

Have a look at the schools, the roads and the sanitation down there and then tell me again that we don’t benefit somewhat from our tax dollars up here.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

4 thoughts on “Platitudes won’t fix our highways and bridges

  1. … is being on a first-name basis with “Emerson.”

    Beside the point, but couldn’t resist. Excellent post, exposing the hypocrisy of the far right.  

  2. “Take heart, Ms. Kirker, the undocumented immigrants you speak of are coming here from Central America because our strong federation has brought a quality of life to the U.S. of which they can only dream.”

    And also because our military has, for centuries, devastated their countries and left them in the hands of plutocrats and military dictators, making them unlivable for everyday folks.

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