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What's happened to our infrastructure?

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: Rescue crews in Minneapolis found an eighth body today in the wreckage of the I-35 West bridge. It happened the same day Transportation Secretary Mary Peters was in the city. She delivered a $50 million installment of the quarter-billion dollars that Congress has allotted to help with eventually rebuilding the span.

At the same time, commentator Tim Bedore says our own way of economic thinking contributed to the collapse.


Tim Bedore: I live just three miles away from the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis last week, so perhaps, more intensely than some of you, I am asking the question "What the hell has happened to our infrastructure?"

Some of the reasons our infrastructure has been ignored and that bridge went down are, "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem." That's a Ronald Reagan quote.

The constant ridiculing of tax-and-spenders and the "It's your money. You earned it, you should keep it" drum beat of talk radio. The union-busting, outsourcing, we-can-do-America-on-the-cheap philosophy that has infected corporate America, school boards, state legislatures . . . all of us.

People say this is not the time for finger pointing. Is it a coincidence the very people who say that are the ones who screwed things up? If you ever intend to use a bridge in the future, this is precisely the time to ask, "Has conservatism screwed up America?"

Now, conservatism can be very useful. Conservatism is a valuable voice in the process, putting the brakes on social engineering run amok. But having conservativism's short-term, bottom-line, give-the-people-only-what-they-think-they-need-now approach as our governing theme has been a giant bust.

How's Reagan's service economy looking to you now? How much of your $200, $300 tax cut would you give back to know that bridge you cross every day has been checked out, and the money necessary to keep it safe has been spent?

Middle class, have you gotten rich off the trickle-down economy? How are those tax cuts to the rich working out for you, middle class?

My fellow Americans, things that work, like bridges, cost money. Things that work really well, cost lots of money. Things that work really well and don't break because they've been inspected, maintained, improved, replaced, cost lots and lots of money. Tax money.

My daughter was on a school bus that crossed that bridge a few weeks before it went down. Now is indeed the time to point fingers and give a failing grade to the political philosophy that says we can run America on the cheap.

Ryssdal: Tim Bedore lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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