Our liar in chief got at least one thing right before 2017 came to an end — and it wasn't the biggest tax cut in history for America's richest people ("It's going to cost a fortune for me. Believe me!" Sure, Donald, you of the secret tax returns. We believe you).
It was his comments following the Amtrak train crash near Seattle just before Christmas that took the lives of three and injured dozens more.
Although this particular crash wasn't the fault of infrastructure, Donald Trump called attention to our failure to maintain that infrastructure. Our politicians sat idly by as our bridges deteriorated, our highways disintegrated and our mass transit became a laughingstock to the rest of the world. While people in other civilized countries travel on trains exceeding 200 mph, we can't navigate corners at more than 30.
He insisted that's going to change in 2018 when he comes up with his plan to invest up to a trillion dollars in roads, airports and rail corridors to bring infrastructure up to snuff.
That's music to the ears of those of us who have advocated for infrastructure spending, whether it be to replace lead pipes that deliver our water supplies or to fix dangerous rail lines that carry hundreds of thousands of passengers to work and back in our biggest cities.
In this penny-wise and pound-foolish political environment of the past several decades, we managed to put things off to future generations.
No one has been better at doing this than Trump's own party. How many of them, for instance, like sheep took the notorious Grover Norquist "no tax increase" pledge, effectively refusing to even consider improving infrastructure if it means adding a dime to the gas tax or an extra 20 bucks on vehicle registration? Here's looking at you, Scott Walker.
The Wisconsin governor, incidentally, is the epitome of the politician who can't — or more accurately, won't — see beyond next year's election. One of his first acts as governor was to squelch an $800 million improvement in Wisconsin's passenger rail infrastructure because it might cost the state a couple of million dollars in maintenance costs in years to come. Same with his turning down tens of millions in federal help to expand broadband capability to rural areas.
And how many highway maintenance and improvement projects have been placed on the back burner because Walker couldn't countenance an increase in the gas tax, especially as another election day looms? Instead, he's traveling the state touting his abolition of the state forestry property tax — a savings of about 27 bucks a year per tax filer — which helped maintain the health of our forests and provided access to them for decades. That maintenance will now be up to the whims of the Legislature in each biennial state budget. Good luck with that.
But Walker isn't alone. He's just one of hundreds of short-sighted politicians we send to office because they've promised to make sure we won't have to pay more taxes. It's like putting off fixing the roof on the house for years and then having to spend thousands to replace the whole thing.
That's where we are now.
Let's hope we figure this out in the new year.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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