Republican National Disgraces Pile Up: Infrastructure

Petulant Republicans in the House of Representatives, who no longer have to answer to voters—only a few wealthy donors, (thanks conservatives on the Supreme Court)–continue to disgrace the people of this country and passed a two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which was set to expire at the end of this month. The makeshift measure would prevent a damaging shutdown of the few infrastructure projects across the country that are actually in progress.infrastructure

Sound familiar? This delaying tactic is the typical Republican method of not dealing with problems…besides lying, obfuscation, stonewalling and deflecting attention onto “social” issues.

Of course the “lawmakers” spent an entire hour yammering about their problems, the bill, and probably the War on Christmas…anything to keep them from doing the real work of solving problems or thinking about constructive ways to do their jobs.

Democrats, like Lois Frankel of Florida, said the 60-day patch was the equivalent of squirting a little spackle on a fractured bridge support. Republicans, whose districts contain just as many crumbling overpasses and congested highways, complained about the extension in only slightly less dismal terms.

Are we really going to wait until bridges actually collapse on the interstates to demand action, or is even that enough to make staunch Republican voters–who cling to their Glock 19s as if they were magic airbags that will protect them from falling concrete–will realize that there are lots of ways to die other than a home invasion or shopping for diapers at Wal-Mart.

The crash of an Amtrak train last week outside Philadelphia further focused the spotlight on the nation’s infrastructure miseries. While the cause is still under investigation, Amtrak has pushed for more funding for years. The passenger railroad says it needs as much as $20 billion to dig new tunnels under the Hudson River and upgrade its rail lines.

Just a day after the crash, House Republicans, who have been critical of the money-losing railroad’s management, voted to cut Amtrak’s budget by $260 million. I guess Monsanto or the Koch Brothers needed a new pair of shoes.

The Democrats have been trying to pass a plan to provide funding for surface transportation projects for over six years, but they have been thwarted for what seems to be an eternity…in lives as well as time. The federal gas tax finances the Highway Trust Fund and hasn’t gone up in more than 20 years, but Republicans and many Democrats refuse to raise it, even as many red states have recently done so on their own to fund their transportation needs.

The most popular alternative at the moment is to use revenue generated by taxing repatriated earnings that U.S. companies now keep overseas. But there is disagreement over the details of that proposal, and Republicans believe it would only work if included in a broader tax-reform plan (read: more tax cuts for the top 1%).

Now there’s enough money to last through July, and Republicans are reluctant to simply transfer more money from the Treasury’s general fund, as they have done in the past. As a result, Congress probably will have to pass yet another extension this summer, which would be the third in the last year. A highway bill lasting for more than two years hasn’t passed on Capitol Hill in a decade.

It’s always the same. You cannot fund projects without money, and the only place from which the Republicans are willing to take money is from the starving, the homeless, and the starving homeless veterans of the wars they are always so eager to fight.

The stopgap funding is bad because the biggest infrastructure projects can take years of planning, and states won’t start them without knowing how much money they’ll get from the federal government. Industry officials estimate that $2 billion in projects have already been pulled back so far this year because of the inaction in Washington.

“There is a real effect if we don’t do something,” said Brian Pallasch, managing director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the U.S. infrastructure system a D+ in its most recent quadrennial report card.

The Obama administration has proposed a six-year, $478 billion plan called the Grow America Act that would pay for infrastructure by imposing a 14 percent tax on foreign earnings being held overseas by U.S. companies. But even this huge amount generates broader skepticism of whether the idea would really generate enough money. “It does not provide us that long-term, sustainable source of revenue,” Pallasch said. “It really is a one-time shot in the arm.”

The problem has become s severe that it reminds me of the way a loan shark operates…get the recipient so deep that they will never dig their way out.

Over the last several months, a few Republicans have stepped forward to endorse an increase in the gas tax, including Inhofe and Representative Jim Renacci of Ohio. But the party leadership has ruled it out as an option.

I thought that the nearly 200 people who almost died on the Amtrak train might spur the Republicans to do something, but then I remembered the outrageous reactions from the NRA, the Republicans, and Fox “News” when 20 elementary school children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School… and it reminded me that unless you’re a wealthy contributor, or unless you haven’t drawn a breath yet, the Republicans politicians could not give two farts in a strong wind about you.

Harvey A. Gold