06 August 2007

Blame first; ask appropriate questions later--if ever

Word on the street has it that the 500 billion we’re spending on Iraq just happens to be the amount it will take to fix our infrastructure (bridges, highways, pipelines) – which Katie Couric informs us is falling apart.

Of course, this talk of the war and Iraq with the link to our “infrastructure” is an understandable attempt to pass the buck along to the administration. And it will probably work. After all, it is the interstate highway system; so it must be owned and maintained by the fed, right?

But the dirty little secret is this: while states do receive considerable federal funding for the Interstate Highway System, the highways are built, owned, and maintained by the states in which they are located. That would be the reason why last year’s bridge inspection report was submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and not the federal DOT. You wouldn’t know that, the way some people carry on.

With respect to any blame for the federal government, there are at least four questions that really needed answered before anyone pointed a finger at anyone outside the State of Minnesota: (1) Has the administration cut the budget of the federal DOT, and if so has this cut resulted in a diminution of federal funding for interstate highway maintenance such that but for this diminution the bridge repairs would have been made (per last year’s bridge report)? (2) If the DOT’s budget has not been cut, then has federal funding for interstate highway maintenance been cut nonetheless, such that – again – but for this cut the aforementioned bridge repairs would have been made? (3) Did the State of Minnesota, pursuant to its responsibility to maintain it’s interstate highways, and assuming lack of state funds, petition the federal government for the funds necessary to conduct the require bridge repairs, and if so was the State turned down by the fed? (4) If the answer to (3) is yes then why did the fed turn down the State of Minnesota, lack of funds due to the war in Iraq?

Before someone is accused of a crime the accuser should ascertain just what law has been broken. Laying the blame for "our" infrastucture problems at the feet of the present administration, while understandable, assumes something that is not the case, which is that the federal government has as one of its responsibilities the care and maintence of highways and bridges.

A final word about “our” infrastructure: it really isn’t our infrastructure; it’s our states’ infrastructures. This pretense that the federal government has powers it doesn't have is more dangerous than the worst provisions of the Patriot Act, and the broad powers exercised in the prosecution of the "War of Drugs".

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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