Opinion » Bill Cope

Humpty Dumpty Country

Where will Republicans be when the lights go out?

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Coincidentally, just a day before _____________ Dam in the state of ___________ collapsed and a wall of water and mud swept through the _____________ Valley, destroying all and everyone before it, the U.S. Congress once again cut by half the budget for the Federal Corps of Dam and Reservoir Integrity, leaving only three inspectors to appraise condition and safety concerns of nearly 75,000 dams spread from coast to coast. As relief workers from the various volunteer non-governmental agencies that have struggled to take the place of the long-defunct FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) worked their way to the scene of the disaster, they were hampered by highways in such dismal states of repair that their trucks were disappearing into potholes the size of alpine glacial crevasses, and the freight cars carrying in relief supplies were derailing at a rate of one out of every two. President ________ had to survey the devastation from the air, as there were no airports within a reasonable distance of the scene on which it was safe enough to land Air Force One, due to crumbling tarmacs and flight control facilities that had not been upgraded since before she was born.

It is estimated that two thirds of the casualties expired in the days following the tragedy—freezing and starving to death for the most part—simply because no one could reach them to help.

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Oh, hey. Didn't mean to alarm. None of that's happened—yet. I was just trying to imagine the future of America as Republicans must see it.

That would assume Republicans see a future for America, wouldn't it? It would assume they have the capacity and curiosity to extrapolate the inevitable consequences of their domestic infrastructure policies—which basically boil down to 1.) deny Democrats the funding to build new infrastructure; 2) underfund every existing sector of public works they can get away with; and 3) transfer the money saved to the richest people in America in the form of tax cuts.
Of course, it would assume they give a good goddamn whether there is a future for America, yes?

What brought it up was the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on what is referred to as the Northeast Corridor, the most intensely traveled rail transportation network in the country. Not to say all the other train lines and highways and flight lanes—bridges and tunnels and traffic control systems—crisscrossing America are any less important. Certainly not, especially to any Californian or Kansan or Dakotan who might be crushed when a decaying overpass pancakes, drowned when a neglected levee fails or incinerated after an airliner skids off a runway over-due to be extended.

But then, as we know, the infrastructure in all those less-celebrated places is going to shit, too. So in the larger sense, when it comes to the prospect of our country falling apart around our ears, we're all in this together.

If the GOP can't bring itself to keep such a beehive of moving parts so fundamental to America's vitality as the Northeast Corridor up to code, what hope do the rest of us have that the overall mechanics of our country—the conduits and the plumbing, the wiring and the structural integrity—will be safe for prolonged use?
So far, all I've been talking about is the deterioration of the stuff bequeathed us by earlier people. Better, wiser people. People who understood the necessity to build for the future. Our Republican leaders can't even see the need to keep that old stuff up to snuff, let alone the need to build any new stuff.

So what's wrong them anyway? Don't they want their children and grandchildren to inhabit a modern country that can compete—or at least compare—to the rest of the civilized world? Could they actually want Asia and Europe to race forward to the 22nd century in their fancy 200-mph bullet trains, while our citizens clump along in decrepit passenger cans that fly off the rails if the slightest thing goes wrong, simply because nothing was done to prevent it from happening?

Seriously, are they so beholden to their billionaire backers that they would let America slip ever further behind, just so a future Koch or Adelson, a future Trump or Gates or Buffet, might be the first trillionaire in the history of Mankind? Would they still refuse to tax the very people who can afford more taxes, even if it meant we lost our status as a first-world nation, because their obedience to the regal rich is stronger than any lingering sense of duty they feel to the rest of us?

Perhaps they aren't planning on staying around long enough for the continuing decay to inconvenience them. Almost 20 years ago, the mayor of Meridian (a Republican) admitted to me that he was doing absolutely nothing about trying to get a second Meridian exit installed on I-84, a project that would have offered some relief to a then-small town swamped in not-so-small traffic, because he was going to retire soon and move to Arizona—to where Meridian's problems wouldn't be his to give a damn about anymore. Could it be that I was given a glimpse with that mayor's attitude into the future of the GOP's approach to public service?

Get all you can, get out and screw the ones who stay.