Friday, April 22, 2011

If You Read One Thing Today...

...make it this:

Screen cap from Idiocracy. Fittingly, filmed in Texas.

Are we ready to acknowledge that the Tea Party is devoid of principles beyond the rather empty rhetoric of "less taxes." Instead, they are far more enthused by the fear of change. The world is changing. Unfortunately, we, as humans, don't handle rapid change well. Also unfortunately, for us people afraid of rapid change, the less we act, i.e. incrementally adapt, the more rapid change is foisted upon us.

Evolution happens in two ways. Slowly, incrementally, and painlessly. Or in rapid fits and starts, rather quite painful and possibly catastrophic. It can be catastrophic, because when it happens so rapidly there is no constant feedback loop. No trial and error. It is essentially a big guess by our (or whatever organism's) biology. A wish and a prayer.

So, from Wisconsin comes this:
While other programs are cut, highway expansion projects totaling more than $400 million get the green light. Highway expansion raids the general fund of more than $140 million, crushing any arguments that “highway users pay for the costs of roads.” In fact, the general fund and property taxes will pay about half of roadway costs in the future. So-called user fees are soon to be eclipsed by decidedly nonuser fees.
When you look at the increase in highway spending, it is also important to pay attention to where the money goes. Local road aids are cut, meaning that even though there is more money going for major highway expansion, there is less money for local units of government to fix those bone-jarring potholes that crop up every spring. Maintenance dollars for highways are down as well.
Walker has said that the highway expansion is needed for our economic recovery. The governor is putting a lot of faith – and capital – in having superhighways be the cornerstone of the state’s economic recovery. After all, he could have put the money in building better communities with better schools as a basis of economic development.
"Well, highway building led to spending and economic expansion in the past, right? It means more freedom, right?" Derp. Derp. Derp. Awfully Keynesian for a supposed Tea Party fiscal conservative.

Only problem is that highways (at least in the past -- like streetcars) opened up the value of land further away from the city's core. Perfectly well and good, I suppose. That is, if you have demand for housing expansion, particularly outwards. This was a necessity during the industrial period when cities were dirty, disease-ridden, poverty-infested places. Ya know, the last time Robber Barons were in charge of things.

Democracy isn't really worth having if you cede the power. And if we're going to do so, you'd think one or two would realize the value increment in high quality cities, but that might empower too many people. Best to tell them, "HIGHWAYS/CARS EQUAL FREEDOM!1! DURRRR"

How do you like that car payment? Insurance payment? Registration? The cost to have police out on roads enforcing speeding/traffic rules, which is quite the waste of money when it comes to what police ought to be doing. Like police work.

There is no reason today why cities can't be tremendously clean, livable places. In fact, they have to be if we want to compete globally. Any dirty industry has either moved overseas (you debate the good/bad there) or it has or will soon have to move to the suburbs/exurbs where land is cheaper.

You doubt that process will happen? Consider yourself lucky if an industry targets your property in McKinney or Celina for relocation. Otherwise, it's back to the farm for your land. And this is if you're still semi-lucky and some dollar value can be affixed to your dirt. Woodland Critters don't pay much for real estate.

Furthermore, between the surplus of housing, the shadow inventory of housing that banks are sitting on, and the pent-up demand for in-town housing (now that cities aren't such filthy disgusting, unsafe places), there is no demand to meet out in the middle of nowhere. Zero. Zilch.

And the highways we spent on (the excessive ones beyond Eisenhower's initial interstate system), we can't even maintain. Sure, they might have created some economic development, but now? Just to maintain them, we are fronting billions of dollars with the only return being not utter disaster as a highway or highway bridge collapses, which yes, has already happened. So every dollar we spend now generates zero in return.

Talk about roads to nowhere. Keep voting for these people if you enjoy the thrill of sky diving, or the superman ride at six flags, but there is no parachute. No bungee cord. It is more like driving a car off a cliff. That last step is gonna be a doozy.