OpinionJournal has a very interesting editorial on the economic consequences of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, which should be required reading for everyone - not only those outside the area with an interest in how this story turns out, but those within the Twin Cities who very much have a vested interest - both in terms of transportation and taxes - in what happens next. Among their findings:
James Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who runs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently stood beside the wreckage and recommended an increase in the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax, as a way to prevent future bridge collapses. His wing man, Alaska Republican and former Transportation Chairman Don Young, agrees wholeheartedly.
As it happens, these are the same men who played the lead role in the $286 billion 2005 federal highway bill. That's the bill that diverted billions of dollars of gas tax money away from urgent road and bridge projects toward Member earmarks for bike paths, nature trails and inefficient urban transit systems.
Hardly a surprise, I suppose.
People from outside Minnesota keep asking me where the outrage is. I'm not always sure what we're supposed to be outraged about - there's always so much from which to choose - but a common theme centers around how our tax money is being used. As I mentioned in a piece last week, Thomas Sowell points out that there's plenty of money being spent on infrastructure; the question we should be asking is how that money is being spent. The OpinionJournal piece seconds these concerns: while Oberstar brags of "secured more than $12 million in funding" from a recent spending bill, the actual disposition of the money goes unnoticed: "$10 million of that was dedicated to a commuter rail line, $250,000 for the 'Isanti Bike/Walk Trail,' $200,000 to bus services in Duluth, and $150,000 for the Mesabi Academy of Kidspeace in Buhl. None of it went for bridge repair."
It's not as if we're not paying enough taxes: seventh in the nation in personal income tax, third highest in corporate tax rates, and a budget surplus of $2 billion. Additional spending goes not to infrastructure, but to things such as "health care, art centers, sports stadiums and welfare benefits." Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.
Very little of this will be a puzzlement to people who live in Minnesota, or have spent some time here. But it needs to be mentioned nonetheless. There's nothing like a tragedy to stampede people into action. This was true even when people voted with their hearts much less than they do in our Oprahfied era. Even though the attempt may be doomed to failure (see Drew's post earlier today on doomed heroes), someone has to bring up the facts. Someone has to stand athwart history, yelling Stop.