Last week, we had not one, but two bridge failures; one in Washington state (right), the other in Missouri (below right). The week before that, we had a massive train crash due apparently to a cracked rail. One might say, those were not bridges too far, but that didn’t go far enough. In other words, those bridges failed to span the distances they were relied on to cover for safe driving by Americans. Fortunately, there were only injuries from the bridge failures, and a lot of damage, but no fatalities. There were far more injuries in the train collision; old, slow trains.
The Missouri overpass was one of the few relatively new bridges; the bridge in Washington was part of the Interstate system started by President Eisenhower in the late 1950s; so many of our roads and bridges date to that mid-20th century building expansion.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the last good Republican President. He was our top general in the winning of WW II. He never went far right wing rabid nutso like Senator Joe McCarthy. Quite the opposite; he was targeted by the right wing nuts that founded the John Birch Society – which included the father of our modern right wing nut big money players, the infamous Koch Brothers – accused Ike, as an exceptionally popular sitting president, of being a Stalin-era Soviet agent. And they accused his brother of being his “Commie handler”; and of course, then and now, they promoted the idea that putting fluoride in the water supply was not about preventing tooth decay, it was about mind control by the Reds. NO, not conservative reds, they meant the COMMUNIST ‘reds’.
If you thought right wing crazy conspiracy theories were a strictly 21st century development, far from it. The only difference was that back in the mid 20th century, mainstream Republicans were not crazy. Now the GOP has been hijacked by the worst of the conservative Dixie-crat Democrats, joining with the fringe right wing who are now mainstream crazy and stupid.
Back then, there was no mainstream Republican opposition to Ike when he proposed the 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. No one screamed “T00-Big Government’; no one screamed the government couldn’t afford it either, even though we were still paying off debt from WW II — the last formally, properly declared war in which the whole nation participated, for a good cause, unlike the military misadventures since then.
Ike made no secret that part of his inspiration for the Interstate highway system had to do with his experience of the autobahn in Germany. While the greatest benefit of the system has come from commercial and personal use, the way Ike SOLD the idea in the cold war era was to stress that it had national defense and security importance. It was widely known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, because Ike stressed the ability to move troops and military material over such a system to whatever part or parts of the nation might be attacked by attacking forces, as well as to expedite aid during natural disasters.
Having built the system, we have not added to it in a comprehensive way, and we have not maintained the infrastructure of it either, repairing and replacing as needed, or re-engineering stretches with better designs where old engineering became obsolete. And instead of having the support of a sensible GOP, the idea of spending desperately needed and too-long postponed state and federal funds on such repairs and replacements, much less expansion, has had the greatest opposition from the Grover Norquist Drown-Federal Government in a Bathtub right wing nuts who no longer demonize foreign communists but their mainstream fellow Americans as the enemy. We might have a chance to repeat the Eisenhower strategy, if there were some equivalent way to scare the right into funding the repairs, and replacement infrastructure, linking it to sharia law and gay immigrant racist marxist-socialist Islamo-narco-terrorism. Unfortunately the current crop of crazies only see, in their fevered paranoia, New World Order tanks and UN soldiers on those interstate highways, coming for their guns, ammo and Bibles.
It is tempting to speculate that we need to somehow fluoridate (or the equivalent) their brains, because they clearly have some kind of rot affecting them, comparable to cavities in teeth.
It is time to throw out the crazies and the corrupt special-interest servers in Congress; purge the right of their current membership, almost without exception. Take back the GOP for actual Americans, not corporations, and put the lunatics in the asylums where they belonged before Reagan got rid of those facilities because the GOP was too cheap to spend money on mental health care for those who needed to be in facilities, not wandering the streets.
Right wing policies, both political and economic, post-Eisenhower, do not work, have never worked and are leading to our downfall – literally, to Americans being injured by falling bridges – because of an unwillingness to expend public money on public works projects that serve the public weal. We cannot afford the two-small special-interest-serving corporations-are-people-my-friend insanity that has become the GOP generally and the Tea Party specifically.
When it lines the pockets of special interests, the right, like Palin, will be cheerleaders for bridges to nowhere. We have bridges to somewhere falling down; we need new bridges, new highways, expanded rail service, new and repaired/renovated schools. That takes money. Heroes like Ike who were not afraid of armies and navies and air forces of the enemy, or our own rapacious and greedy military industrial complex, and who was not afraid to squash the nut job fringe of his own party when necessary, was also not afraid of big enough government to do what was necessary for a nation to be great.
If the GOP has their way, we will never be first in anything again (except incarceration), we will be dead last, dead or maybe just injured, but still last, a nation in decline. This is the era for spending, not poorly chosen thrift that is more about who is president than any real fiscal responsibility. It is time for the GOP to stand for Good Old PURGE, not a purge of right wing extremist purity, but of those who don’t know or care about engaging in bad government, large or small.
We’ve run out of time; we’re running out of bridges, we’re running out of roads.