[Marxism] No more collapses

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 2 12:07:52 MDT 2007


(posted to lbo-talk by Stephen Philion)

http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1339911.html

Nick Coleman: Public anger will follow our sorrow

The cloud of dust above the Mississippi that rose after the Interstate
35W bridge collapsed Wednesday evening has dissipated. But there are
other dark clouds still hanging over Minneapolis and Minnesota.

By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Last update: August 02, 2007 – 11:33 AM
The cloud of dust above the Mississippi that rose after the Interstate
35W bridge collapsed Wednesday evening has dissipated. But there are
other dark clouds still hanging over Minneapolis and Minnesota.

The fear of falling is a primal one, along with the fear of being
trapped or of drowning.

Minneapolis suffered a perfect storm of nightmares Wednesday evening,
as anyone who couldn't sleep last night can tell you. Including the
parents who clench their jaws and tighten their hands on the wheel
every time they drive a carload of strapped-in kids across a steep
chasm or a rushing river. Don't panic, you tell yourself. The people
in charge of this know what they are doing. They make sure that the
bridges stay standing. And if there were a problem, they would tell
us. Wouldn't they?

What if they didn't?

The death bridge was "structurally deficient," we now learn, and had a
rating of just 50 percent, the threshold for replacement. But no one
appears to have erred on the side of public safety. The errors were
all the other way.

Would you drive your kids or let your spouse drive over a bridge that
had a sign saying, "CAUTION: Fifty-Percent Bridge Ahead"?

No, you wouldn't. But there wasn't any warning on the Half Chance
Bridge. There was nothing that told you that you might be sitting in
your over-heated car, bumper to bumper, on a hot summer day, thinking
of dinner with your wife or of going to see the Twins game or taking
your kids for a walk to Dairy Queen later when, in a rumble and a
roar, the world you knew would pancake into the river.

There isn't any bigger metaphor for a society in trouble then a bridge
falling, its concrete lanes pointing brokenly at the sky, its crumpled
cars pointing down at the deep waters where people disappeared.

Only this isn't a metaphor.

The focus at the moment is on the lives lost and injured and the
heroic efforts of rescuers and first-responders - good Samaritans and
uniformed public servants. Minnesotans can be proud of themselves, and
of their emergency workers who answered the call. But when you have a
tragedy on this scale, it isn't just concrete and steel that has
failed us.

So far, we are told that it wasn't terrorists or tornados that brought
the bridge down. But those assurances are not reassuring.

They are troubling.

If it wasn't an act of God or the hand of hate, and it proves not to
be just a lousy accident - a girder mistakenly cut, a train that hit a
support - then we are left to conclude that it was worse than any of
those things, because it was more mundane and more insidious: This
death and destruction was the result of incompetence or indifference.

In a word, it was avoidable.

That means it should never have happened. And that means that public
anger will follow our sorrow as sure as night descended on the
missing.

For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly
that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New Taxes. It's been popular
with a lot of voters and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that
Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax increase - the first in 20 years -
last spring and millions were lost that might have gone to road
repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas tax had gone
through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it comes
to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in
coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.

I'm not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not
partisan. It is general.

Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both
have dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums while
scrimping on the basics.

How ironic is it that tonight's scheduled groundbreaking for a new
Twins ballpark has been postponed? Even the stadium barkers realize it
is in poor taste to celebrate the spending of half a billion on
ballparks when your bridges are falling down. Perhaps this is a sign
of shame. If so, it is welcome. Shame is overdue.

At the federal level, the parsimony is worse, and so is the
negligence. A trillion spent in Iraq, while schools crumble, there
aren't enough cops on the street and bridges decay while our leaders
cross their fingers and ignore the rising chances of disaster.

And now, one has fallen, to our great sorrow, and people died losing a
gamble they didn't even know they had taken. They believed someone was
guarding the bridge.

We need a new slogan and we needed it yesterday:

"No More Collapses."




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