When Politicians promise ‘Lower Taxes’ they are promising Collapsed Bridges

The next time you hear politicians campaigning on “lower taxes,” you should realize two things.

First, they don’t intend to lower your taxes, which are probably mostly social security. In fact, they might like effectively to raise those taxes by extending the retirement age. They mean they intend to lower taxes for rich people and corporations.

Second, what they really mean is that they intend to deny you basic social services of the sort government provides through your taxes, such as upkeep of roads and bridges. They want to allow the trucking and other corporations who use those resources to escape paying for them (most road degradation is caused by trucks), and pass the cost on to you, either in the form of tolls or of deteriorating infrastructure. I.e., when they campaign on lower taxes they are actually promising you that your bridges will collapse. Like the one in Washington state.

12% of bridges –i.e. thousands and thousands of them– in the United States are “structurally deficient.”

“An I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon[, Washington,] collapsed Thursday evening, sending cars and people into the water. Three people were rescued from the water and taken to hospitals.”

AP interviews a survivor:

The implications for other states:

17 Responses

    • People go to get basic social services or basic social services are delivered by means of such infrastructure. That would make them an essential part of basic social services. In the DC area we saw the results of privatized roads in a fiasco that was the Dulles toll road. Too expensive and little use.

      Infrastructure benefits the economy by easing the transport of goods and services through the maintenance of good roads. It results in less wear on vehicles, safer transport, etc. It further benefits those who produce goods for the economy by allowing for a distribution network that is paid for collectively.

      When corporations and others complain about excess taxation, part of that taxation is the cost they shoulder for the privilege of the use of public roads to deliver their goods to the public through that distribution network. So yes, good roads are an essential part of the social and economic infrastructure of our republic.

      sententiae malae delendae sunt!

    • So, Brian, tell us, what do you think they are…
      Do you think that they should be operated by private companies which would make users pay tolls? If so, this thinking would put the price of the toll on the highway to Key West to pretty close to infinity. There are some services the cost of which needs to be born by the entire society otherwise it would not be provided.

      • The USA maintains a road to Key West.
        It could maintain a railroad to Key West.
        It could maintain a Ferry Service to Key West.
        Has anyone really done an indepth cost benifit risk analysis
        of the options from the point of View of the USA and from the point of view of the Conch Republic?

    • Regarding corporations, taxation is also a way, albeit pretty sorry, to redirect some of the externalities that the relatively new (last 4-500 years) corporate structures have been getting ever more adept at dumping of the “libertarian” Market Model and onto the general population and the rest of the planet.

      Petroleum, coal, “paperandpulp,” plastics and pesticides, all that stuff, have costs that for a lot of reasons, many of them under the labels of “cheerful corruption” and “regulatory capture,” just somehow escape being included in the price of the product that the Magical Market is supposed to cross those hypersimplistic Supply and Demand curves for.

      As is the case with trucking: Remember those little white stickers that used to adorn the butts of all those 48-foot and longer semi-trailers? The ones that read “This vehicle pays $3,280 in road use taxes every year”? link to flickr.com of a discontinued (due to pushback) marketing/propaganda effort to obscure the more telling point that the vehicle in question did more like $180,000 in annual damage and wear to bridges, road surfaces and other infrastructure (like toxic runoff from roadways and all those teeny black “PM-10″ soot particles that are lodged in all our lungs.) link to epa.gov (Note, says the Agency: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource. hahahahahaha!)

      Because pavement damage increases sharply with axle weight, the reduced weight per axle of the heavier trucks again means less pavement damage. An approximation derived from extensive tests conducted in the 1950s suggests that pavement damage increases exponentially with axle weight to a power of four—the so-called “fourth power” rule…

      Although additional axles on a truck can substantially reduce pavement damage, the stress to bridges depends more on the truck’s total load than on the number of axles. For this reason, increases to truck weight limits can create large costs for bridges, even when they encourage additional
      axles.

      For bridges, the principal cost associated with heavier trucks lies in ensuring that the bridge can accommodate the trucks without collapsing. The Comprehensive Truck Size and
      Weight Study estimated the costs of truck size and weight reforms on the assumption that bridges that become
      safety-deficient under the new weight limits will need to be replaced. As the study notes, this assumption probably
      overstates bridge costs because some bridges could be strengthened rather than replaced, while others could be
      made off-limits to the damaging vehicles. The estimated increases in bridge costs were large: 10 percent in the tri-
      ple-trailer network scenario, 34 percent in the LCV network scenario, and up to 42 percent in the North Ameri-
      can Trade scenario.

      Weissmann and Harrison (1998a, 1998b) estimated the bridge costs for another NAFTA-related scenario, one in which types of heavy trucks that are common in Mexico and Canada are allowed on U.S. highways… The authors estimated that, in Texas alone, the introduction of the Canadian-con-
      figured truck would require $7.7 billion in expenditures on bridge replacement, and that the Mexican-configured truck would require about $6.6 billion. As the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study also found, the largest cost of bridge replacement turned out to be associated with the disruption to traffic while the work is underway. Of the total estimated cost for accommodating the Mexican-configured truck, about 85 percent consisted of time losses to motorists during reconstruction

      link to utexas.edu

      A lot of those trucks also proudly wore stickers that read “Don’t like the way I’m driving? Dial 1-800-EAT-SHIT.” link to statigr.am

      And of course it’s always the case that “Rust never sleeps!” link to google.com

  1. ?? How exactly do you make your way across the landscape? Do you hike on your good two feet at all times? Do you fly across water obstacles? Does your food come to you by magic genies?

    • I’ve worked in social services, rebuilding lives.
      I’ve worked in horizontal construction, rebuilding a railway.
      I think they’re different.

      ………………………

      I believe infrastructure such as roads and bridges are a legit governmental function. I believe government roadbuilding promotes the general welfare.
      When a government builds roads, they provide a PUBLIC service.
      But they aren’t a SOCIAL service in the way I understand the term.

      To me, a social service does something DIRECTLY (provider to recipient) for the well-being of individuals and their persons. Examples include health care, education and child care, whether provided by the government or not.

      I think it’s important to accurately recognize the meanings of words, when the intent is effective communication.
      When the purpose is something else, maybe the understanding of the meanings of words doesn’t need to be so precise.

  2. This incident will be most likely like that of Minneapolis in 2007. Fix this particular bridge, but never mind the others. Never mind thinking that by fixing these bridges (and other) infrastructures unemployment could be alleviated greatly. Firstly, by the construction workers directly involved and secondly by the induced consumption by those workers (e.g., buying lunch, new clothes, new cars)… I think it is called multiplier effect :) It sounds simplistic, but that is, in a nutshell, how the real “stimulus” spending works. Somebody needs to explain this to the GOP… and to (most of) the Democrats.

  3. A century ago it was okay for Americans to debate each other about the distribution of wealth and the distribution of benefits and costs by government. Thus when Teddy Roosevelt implemented the first peacetime income tax he argued that extreme inequality was bringing the validity of democracy into doubt. According to William Greider, millions of farmers once maintained healthy dialogue on the differential effects of monetary policy.

    Now, we don’t have these discussions. Thus there is an invisible elephant crowding our fiscal room:

    Does our global military stance serve the rich and the poor equally?

    We always treat the military as a collective good, but who really benefits the most from our having troops in 130 countries versus, say, spending the money instead on repairing bridges? Does dominating the globe militarily give American businessmen abroad a certain leverage that Swiss businessmen lack? Do those businessmen use that advantage to more rapidly outsource the jobs of ordinary Americans?

    • Agreed !!!

      Lets take it a bit further and ask who owns the majority interest in those businesses and what are their social responsibilities to the countries they operate in.

      IMO, we have a global inherited elite that are playing countries against each other to undercut social safety nets and increase competition for scarcer jobs. The multinational corporations are getting US military support to do so, paid for but no longer under the control pf the US public.

  4. Washington State, in accordance with its constitution, has no sales tax, which is looking a little silly now.

    Mount Vernon is the gateway to the vacation spots of the San Juan Islands and this could have a devastating impact on the tourism industry there.

    • Bob H – So that nearly 10% I pay on all purchases is what, exactly, if it isn’t a sales tax? I don’t know what planet you are living on, but in WA we have very high sales taxes, imposed by the state, county, and city where the transaction is taking place.

    • No “sales tax”? Big deal. The gross receipts tax is one of the more regressive forms of taxation. The less you make, the more you pay, proportionally. If they’ve mandated no GRT in their Constitution, then good on them.

      What Washington (the State) residents should look into is what their income tax rates are, and how progressive, not to mention taxes on gasoline/diesel, traditionally used for road maintenance and construction. Plus how, and how much, they tax corporations doing business there. You’d think they’d be able to get a chunk of change off of Starbucks, for example.

      It looks as if Washington’s 2013 tourism revenue will take a major hit, however, even with gawkers coming in from out of state to see the disaster.

    • Actually, Washington State has a substantial sales tax — in the Seattle area, we pay 9.5%. And property taxes, though I think everywhere has those. Maybe you mean income tax?

  5. I have worked in the public sector for both the state and non profits in social work all my working carreer. I can believe that what the GOP is trying to do is gut government to the point that it can’t support social or infrastructure programs at all. It is a shame most people think they are saving money by not having taxes raised.
    What is actully happening is social programs are being cut which hurts the poor and those who need public assistance.
    By cutting other programs there is no money for repair of bridges, roads, and other infrastructure upon which we all depend for our daily travels. It is a crime that this is allowed to happen yet some of us seem to what this situation to continue. Thank heavens for the DEMs

  6. I’m sure the tulips will be missed.
    Wait. Nevermind, most of the tulip tourists come from the south, so rerouting a FREEWAY through town and four way stops will make the spring traffic wave even worse!

    For those of you not familiar with THIS Mount Vernon in THIS Washington, there is an annual tulip festival which tends to bring a soupy morass of tourists every spring to look at flowers. That traffic on top of reroute traffic is going to be a billion dollar fiasco.

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