Bridge to Failure

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BLOG: Pawlenty is just a bit player in this tragedy.

Already this morning, I’ve read some posts on the Internet holding Tim Pawlenty responsible for the 35W bridge collapse.

While it’s tempting to lay blame for the disaster at the feet of the Pawlenty Administration, it’s important to keep in mind that he is just a bit player in this tragedy. With his “no new taxes” scam, he bears responsibility for promoting the prevailing conservative/neoliberal critique of government, which at heart constitutes a rejection of the idea that there should be any non-privatized space in America, no aspect of life not fully governed by “free” market forces. But the truth is that, beginning with the Reagan Administration, this country has failed to maintain its public infrastructure, a bi-partisan neglect of government’s most basic responsibility in which the Clinton Administration was just as guilty as the Reagan and Bush Administrations. Things have reached a point where it would now take the equivalent of a domestic Marshall Plan just to get all of our bridges, highways, schools and other public structures up to code.

The 35W disaster, like the much greater disaster that befell New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, is ultimately the result of a larger rot besetting the country’s leadership class. The erosion of the idea that there can or should be an American commonwealth may have been cultivated by Corporate America, the principle beneficiary of privatization, but it has been enthusiastically embraced by both parties at the national level, the beneficiaries of Corporate America’s campaign funding largesse. The outpouring of concern and private charity that followed in the wake of Katrina, and that we are already witnessing in Minneapolis where, for example, blood banks have been overwhelmed with calls, shows that the American people have not necessarily lost faith in the idea of the common good, even when its entails sacrifice. But certainly leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties have, by and large, turned away from such “quaint” notions.

In short, unless we find a way to redress the growing sway corporations hold over our political system — by overhauling tax codes designed to transfer wealth upward, ending the corporate welfare system, overturning the absurd legal protection of corporations as “persons” under the 14th amendment, and requiring broadcast licensees to provide free air time to candidates for office from all political parties, not just Republican or Democrat — things are only going to get worse. Which means that the 35W bridge collapse, like the failure of New Orleans levees, is just a portent of things to come.