‘No new taxes?’ How about, ‘No more collapses?’

Some folks I know who used to work in Minnesota sent me this link while I was at the beach last week. In light of the radical anti-government, anti-tax stuff that tends to hold sway in this state, I thought it might be worth sharing, even this late:

Coleman: Public anger will follow our sorrow

Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

The cloud of dust above the Mississippi that rose after the Interstate 35W
bridge collapsed Wednesday evening has dissipated. But there are other dark
clouds still hanging over Minneapolis and Minnesota.

The fear of falling is a primal one, along with the fear of being trapped or of

Minneapolis suffered a perfect storm of nightmares Wednesday evening, as anyone
who couldn’t sleep last night can tell you. Including the parents who clench
their jaws and tighten their hands on the wheel every time they drive a carload
of strapped-in kids across a steep chasm or a rushing river. Don’t panic, you
tell yourself. The people in charge of this know what they are doing. They make
sure that the bridges stay standing. And if t! here were a problem, they would
tell us. Wouldn’t they?

What if they didn’t?

The death bridge was "structurally deficient," we now learn, and had
a rating of just 50 percent, the threshold for replacement. But no one appears
to have erred on the side of public safety. The errors were all the other way.

Would you drive your kids or let your spouse drive over a bridge that had a
sign saying, "CAUTION: Fifty-Percent Bridge Ahead"?

No, you wouldn’t. But there wasn’t any warning on the Half Chance Bridge. There
was nothing that told you that you might be sitting in your over-heated car,
bumper to bumper, on a hot summer day, thinking of dinner with your wife or of
going to see the Twins game or taking your kids for a walk to Dairy Queen later
when, in a rumble and a roar, the world you knew would pancake into the river.

There isn’t any bigger metaphor for a society in trouble than a bridge falling,
its concrete lanes pointing brokenly! at the sky, its crumpled cars pointing
down at the deep water! s where people disappeared.

Only this isn’t a metaphor.

The focus at the moment is on the lives lost and injured and the heroic efforts
of rescuers and first-responders – good Samaritans and uniformed public
servants. Minnesotans can be proud of themselves, and of their emergency
workers who answered the call. But when you have a tragedy on this scale, it
isn’t just concrete and steel that has failed us.

So far, we are told that it wasn’t terrorists or tornados that brought the
bridge down. But those assurances are not reassuring.

They are troubling.

If it wasn’t an act of God or the hand of hate, and it proves not to be just a
lousy accident – a girder mistakenly cut, a train that hit a support – then we
are left to conclude that it was worse than any of those things, because it was
more mundane and more insidious: This death and destruction was the result of
incompetence or indifference.

In a word, it was avoidable.

T! hat means it should never have happened. And that means that public anger
will follow our sorrow as sure as night descended on the missing.

For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly that of
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New Taxes. It’s been popular with a lot of voters
and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax
increase – the first in 20 years – last spring and millions were lost that
might have gone to road repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas
tax had gone through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it
comes to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in
coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.

I’m not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not partisan. It
is general.

Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both have
dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums! while scrimping on
the basics.

How ironic is it that! tonight ‘s scheduled groundbreaking for a new Twins
ballpark has been postponed? Even the stadium barkers realize it is in poor
taste to celebrate the spending of half a billion on ballparks when your
bridges are falling down. Perhaps this is a sign of shame. If so, it is
welcome. Shame is overdue.

At the federal level, the parsimony is worse, and so is the negligence. A
trillion spent in Iraq, while schools crumble, there aren’t enough cops on the
street and bridges decay while our leaders cross their fingers and ignore the
rising chances of disaster.

And now, one has fallen, to our great sorrow, and people died losing a gamble
they didn’t even know they had taken. They believed someone was guarding the

We need a new slogan and we needed it yesterday:

"No More Collapses."

5 thoughts on “‘No new taxes?’ How about, ‘No more collapses?’

  1. bud

    Maybe if we weren’t squandering $hundreds of billions on a misguided illusion to create some sort of utopia in Iraq we’d have the needed resources to spend on badly needed infrastructure. Why should we pay more to a government that so freely spits on the taxpayers with it’s misguided foreign policy adventures?

  2. Doug Ross

    I agree with Bud. There is plenty of money available to fix bridges and roads. Our legislators choose to have other priorities. On a state and local level, that includes paying for the Hunley, paying for a security detail for the Lt. Governor, paying for all sorts of arts festivals, having duplication of effort on various boards, and on and on.
    The money is there. Get some legislators who aren’t interested in patronage, pork barrel politics, or personal interests and we could fix the bridges.
    It’s not radical to expect a government to focus on the big priorities instead of spending on individual politician’s pet projects. It’s the difference between stewardship and stealing. You accept it and ask for more on top of what already is being wasted. I say cut the waste first and redirect it to where it benefits everyone. Hardly radical. Perhaps even more rational.

  3. Karen McLeod

    Why can’t our congressmen (both state and federal) do a major overhaul of our tax system so that it’s fairly clear, and allows the government and ourselves to have a pretty fair idea of what is going to come in each year? Why can’t they set priorities so that we can budget the highest priority first, then the less important ones as we have money? And why can’t all this be public, so that people can understand how much money is available to any given administration, and what that administration considers to be the highest priorities. So many people keep demanding that this or that be funded, but keep saying the money would be there if we weren’t spending it on something else (war, welfare, social security, education, mental health, arms build-up). Our governments (both local and federal) seem to play a wonderful game of bait and switch. And they can get away with it because no hierarchy of priorities has been determined, and no one seems able to say how much is available, and how much of that is already committed elsewhere. The result? We get the restoration of the Hunley prioritized, while we have no real oversight of those who make decisions about keeping our roads drivable, our bridges safe, our water system in good shape. And no one is willing to stick his political neck out to say that one thing should have priority over another. The politicians seem to be funding programs in a vacuum, without ever considering the need for one thing against the need for another. It is this refusal to be planful, and the apparent profligacy with which some of our money is spent that makes people unwilling to increase taxes. Everyone seems so sure that the money is available “somewhere.”

  4. Dan H.

    I saw this guy with a shirt that says, “READ MY BLOG, NO NEW TAXES.” Does anyone have any idea where he got it because I want to buy one for everyday of the week. lol

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