The awful bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a tragedy, but it is also, as Rick Perlstein comments, a "teachable moment." Rick has been writing for months about the costs of conservatism, both in terms of crumbling infrastructure and the crumbling regulatory safety net (his e. coli conservatives). It is not hyperbole to call the bridge collapse, as Rick does, part of the "tax cut death toll."
The bridge-collapse tragedy is a teachable moment: This is your government on conservatism.
This year two Democratic Minnesotan legislatures passed a $4.18 billion transportation package. Minnesota's Republican governor vetoed it because he had taken a no-new-taxes pledge, Grover Norquist-style. That's just what conservative politicians do.
The original bill would have put over $8 billion toward highways, city, and county roads, and transit over the next decade. The bill he let passed spent much less.
Now four people are dead, and counting.
Infrastructure collapse is easy to understand, but what about the e. coli conservatives, the ones who have gutted our regulatory system to pad their portfolios? Here's David Goldstein from The Nation:
For decades our government has been dominated by a conservative ideology that claims to despise big government, abhor regulation and adhere to an unswerving faith in the infinite wisdom of the market. Rick Perlstein dubs this philosophy "E. Coli Conservatism," and in practice it is not only flawed but corrupt: a calculated conservative project intended to gut our regulatory systems in the interest of sheer corporate greed. We eat adulterated food not because we cannot adequately regulate the industry but because to do so would eat into the profits of the corporations our regulators serve.
In the six years since 9/11, food-borne pathogens and toxins have quietly killed ten times the number of Americans who died in the terrorist attacks. How many more Americans must conservatism kill before our leaders embrace a more responsible ideology?
So as we contemplate the costs of the Iraq War and what it has cost each of our communities, keep in mind that this is all by design. A key part of the Bush/Cheney/Rove project is not just to redistribute wealth, but to make Americans mistrust the ability of their government to solve real problems and improve their lives, because that will undermine the Democrats' key appeal, their ability to actually govern more or less in the public interest. Not only have Bush/Cheney spent our money and our children's money on their mendacious and ill-conceived war, they are robbing us of the means and the collective will to rebuild our own country, our crumbling infrastructure and our regulatory safety net, let alone address problems like global climate collapse.
Ironically, these are all areas where we could put millions of Americans to work in decent jobs here at home, rebuilding our social capital, developing new technologies and binding us together as a nation, thus reinvigorating our economy. Instead, we may see any "peace dividend" from ending the Iraq War, like the last "peace dividend" under Bush's father, going to bail out financial institutions, in this case those who bought excessively risky loans made by greedy mortgage brokers.
That's conservatism, folks!