Yet Another Bridge Too Far
by Mary Lyon
The bridge disaster in Minneapolis should finally make us face the bridge we really have to repair. There is another bridge that needs crossing. And it’s that unmentionable bridge, that fearsome Bridge-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, The Bridge WAY Too Far, especially for America’s loyal, patriotic CONservatives. They fear to tread that way even more than they shrink from accountability. More than they dread bringing an end to their war of choice. More than they even fear bin Laden or Saddam or some boogeyman to be named later. In fact, to them, the worst terrorist of all isn’t either of these, or any of their friends or associates. It’s the obligation to pay taxes – especially to the federal government.
What much of America still doesn’t want to understand or accept is the harsh but necessary reality that comes with a large, sprawling society with many shared needs and demands. Like, say, maybe a bridge about which we can feel secure when we drive onto it. The Minneapolis bridge disaster is just the latest disgrace that illustrates America’s refusal to connect the dots. It motivated me to revisit an effort to do just that, written in time for last Halloween – called “ The Last Scare Tactic ”. The bottom line, there and here, is simply this:
We CANNOT have a successful democracy in which all are created equal and all pledging allegiance to the same flag, nor can we have any semblance of genuine “Homeland Security,” without the financial underpinnings that come from tax money. We just can’t. In the larger issues and crises that cross state lines (Hurricane Katrina), span every demographic group (universal health care), and otherwise outstrip a community, city, or state’s ability to cope (the I-35W bridge collapse), tax money is an essential ingredient.
In the interests of full disclosure, I, too, would like not to have to pay so many taxes. But I understand what those taxes are meant to underwrite. That’s one of many reasons why I continue vehemently to oppose the war. We’re spending roughly 100-thousand bucks A MINUTE in Iraq, building bridges and roads that are blown up, frequently before they’re even finished. We’re pouring money down that rat hole with little or nothing in terms of return on investment. HOW MANY bridges like Interstate 35W could be repaired or retrofitted to prevent another collapse like the one we just saw across the northern Mississippi River? How many lives could we avoid losing?
The Minneapolis bridge calamity will, hopefully, underscore that overriding bridge that simply HAS to be crossed: we CANNOT afford to keep cutting taxes. Studies on other bridges around the country show that there are many of them are in greater danger of disaster than the I-35W. (CNN: States warned to inspect bridges)
Just once, I’d like to see our guys stand up and explain exactly WHY it is that we have those annoying taxes to face, to begin with. Maybe they’re a necessary evil, but the word “necessary” comes before the word “evil” in this cliché for a reason. As Ronald Reagan came to power, fiendish thinkers like Newt Gingrich were already working it. He was the guy behind the “Wisdom of Chairman Newt” – a nefarious little black book of catch phrases, slogans, and buzzwords to use as cheat-sheets for a kind of political “Mad-Lib” game. There was a list of good and positive words and phrases to be used whenever one spoke of anything conservative, reactionary, or Republican. There was a corresponding list of negatives for use to describe all things liberal, progressive, or Democratic. Taxes, as expected, got lumped into the bad group – as in the term “tax RELIEF” – implying that taxes were something you needed RELIEF from – ie: something bad. And because nobody’s ever tried to attack this general strategy head-on, that misrepresentation has been allowed to stand, unassailed, for almost three decades. Americans need some help connecting the dots, because taxes do not exist in a vacuum. Our Dems need to get specific and explain WHAT we pay those taxes FOR:
Let’s start with the bridge. If you don’t want to pay taxes, FINE. Try not to be terrified every time you have to steer your car toward some delicately-arching bridge over a mighty river or a crowded freeway. Try not to think of what will happen the longer those bridges are neglected and fall further and further into disrepair.
If you don’t want to pay taxes, FINE. But don’t complain when your dog dies (or runs up huge vet bills) after eating tainted food imported from China – because most of the funding for inspectors got cut, and there wasn’t anybody around to enforce regulations. Besides, they’re just animals – who cares, really? Hey, we could save even more money by letting Michael Vick and his pals take care of it! And don’t make a big fuss when ill-supervised or inspected Chinese shipments of lead-painted toys find there way here, either. Hell, let the dog play with ‘em.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Just don't get all hot and bothered by all those bodies floating down the flooded streets of New Orleans, or the people from there who still have no homes and no food, and then wonder why there is STILL nothing being done to help them, two long years after the fact.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Don't come crying to me when the potholes that never get fixed in your neighborhood streets mess up the front-end alignment on your Mercedes.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. But don't complain about the increased numbers of airplane crashes and grounded fleets, because the government isn't hiring safety inspectors, or regulating the airline industry so it's forced not to cut corners on aircraft maintenance. And don’t complain when you have to sit on the runway for nine hours, either. Regulations to prevent that just aren’t “in” this season, nor are the inspectors or enforcement agents who would make those regulations work.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. But then don't get outraged about the fact that while Camp Pendleton (among other installations) has sent its guys to Iraq, their families back home have so little to live on from combat pay and VA benefits that they're forced to turn to standing in line at local soup kitchens.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. But don't get yourself worked up because there's no money to properly arm and protect our troops, or house and feed them decently, when YOU voted for the people who were so damned anxious to send them into harm's way.