Here's my latest newspaper column, on the sexy subject of infrastructure:
Megyn “Benghazi!” Kelly, of Fox “Benghazi!” “news” would like you to know that people who “politicize” the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia are “despicable.” By which she means those who’ve pointed out the disasters waiting to happen as our infrastructure putresces from years of neglect. By which I mean the suicidal Republican obsession with budget cuts in order to pay for tax breaks for their wealthy benefactors. Oops. Did I politicize?
Crazy times. You can’t discuss obvious racial disparities without being accused of “playing the race card” or being “divisive.” You can’t react to the latest (nearly daily) incidence of a child finding an unattended gun and shooting someone without being characterized as a gun-confiscator. (Can we stop calling those events accidents, by the way?) And now you can’t point to the irrational path down which Republican economic policies are dragging us without being tagged as a despicable politicizer. Question: how do you discuss the results of political policy without “politicization?”
In an earlier column I mentioned poverty, listing some approaches I consider doomed to failure. Because I’m not brilliant enough to have ideas of my own, I didn’t propose any. Yet I heard from people who reFoxively accused me of tax-and-spend liberalism, despite the fact that I’d mentioned nothing of the sort. Because considering problems government ought to address implies money might need to be spent, programmed outrage results as if by a rubber hammer on the patellar tendon. Question the carefully maintained construct that we can get along just fine by ignoring all problems that require monetary outlay, and expect responses on a par with that which results from pointing out the science behind anthropogenic climate change, or the real age of the earth: changing the subject, obfuscation, or “la la la, I can’t hear you.”
It began with Ronald Reagan, of course: the idea that government is the problem, that tax cuts magically solve everything, that we can have what we need without paying for it, that privatizing everything but the use of our pudenda is the path to paradise. It’s not. (tinyurl.com/psxuu94) Or, in the case of infrastructure, that we can just pretend it away. It’s the perfect message for a nation given to rationalizing hard stuff out of existence, banning expert testimony, even, as per the governor of Florida, disallowing the use of certain sciencey words. Who wouldn’t want to believe that by paying less in taxes there would be nights of prosperity and days of jubilee? Show me where and when, and I’m on my way.
By definition, government budgets are political documents. Read the one just passed, without a single Democratic vote, by Republicans in the US House of Representatives, and ask yourself if it isn’t wholly about priorities of that party. (tinyurl.com/kejxfse) Tax cuts for the wealthy, spending cuts for the poor, spending increases (not paid for!) for defense, drastic reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. Of course it’s political. Of course it’s impossible to discuss the impact without mentioning the politics of those who wrote it. What’s despicable, I guess, to people like Megyn Kelly, is pointing to predictable -- or, in the case of Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Amtrak, actual -- consequences. It’s factually indefensible, not to mention patriotically irresponsible, to perpetuate the mythology of Reaganomics.
Today’s Republican leaders like to suggest that governments ought to budget the way families do. Okay, consider homeowners with punctured pipes and rotting roofs. Let’s wonder whether, especially with current interest rates, a responsible family wouldn’t do needed repairs even if it required borrowing money; and let’s imagine the consequences of ignoring the problems. Then let’s agree that it would be inexplicable and self-destructive were that family to gather the money together only to donate it to the owner of a gated mansion down the road. To say that reflects the Republican budget is not to stretch the analogy. Marco Rubio, considered by some to be the brightest and most promising among the R presidential contenders, recently suggested that even if manmade climate change is real, it’d cost too much money to do anything about it. (tinyurl.com/o8uvtpb)
That’s the current Republican path to our future, folks. If this is Yogi’s fork in the road, I’m not taking it.[Image source]