JUST ANOTHER VOID
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Nothing has significantly changed in this void, has it? It's
interesting that two years ago I was musing about transportation, this
year I have been actively fighting a local Measure that asks us to spend
lots more money building lots more urban sprawl in the area of the
nation's worst urban sprawl. Nothing changes. Nothing changes.
Nothing changes ...
There are a lot of things mankind can't do. But how large is the gap between what we could accomplish and what we chose to accomplish?
I wonder why we do the wrong thing when we don't have to.
Here's an example: How many people sit in traffic in the L.A. Basin each day? Some government agency surely keeps the statistics. Let's say 1 million people waste two hours per day because of freeway congestion. Then let's do the math. At a value of $20 per hour x 2 hours x 1 million, that is $40 million per day wasted. Multiplied by 365 days per year, that's $14.6 billion.
But it still doesn't account for the death, injury and property damage that occurs because of freeway congestion, which probably adds a few more billion to the annual price tag.
Couldn't we build a better transportation system for $14.6 billion per year? I think so. We would also have the added benefit of substantially reduced stress for that 1 million people.
So why don't we do that? Why do we choose instead to spend that $14.6 doing something we intensely dislike?
Building infrastructure takes commitment and vision but it does not take any resources we do not already have. Whatever the original cost of the interstate freeway system, we reaped rewards many times over the cost of building it. The net result is that it there was no net cost to building the freeway system. Instead, it was a highly profitable transaction and one that all Americans shared in.
So why do we vote our fears, instead of our dreams?
The U.S. Government -- our government -- is engaged in the politics of destruction and not of construction. Why? Doing the right thing often pays a dividend. Doing the wrong thing costs every American money. Instead of building infrastructure and engaging in programs that can help every American, our government engages almost exclusively in programs that take resources from every American. Those programs take from us and redistribute our resources to a very small group of wealthy people.
If you are lucky, you might become one of the small group of people who benefit from the redistribution. But a person is more likely to fall out of that small group than to work into it. The reason is that the group of the most wealthy is getting smaller.
Now, a tax that takes $50 of my money and returns $150 worth of freeway is a very good investment. On the other hand, a tax that takes $50 of my money to buy an overpriced helicopter so that it can be shot down in Columbia is a very bad investment. It would have been a better choice to take the $50 and bury it in a hole somewhere. The reason is that at least buried in a hole, the $50 will not come back to work against our interests. Whereas, in the hands of defense contractors, the same $50 comes back to buy influence in the government. Influence that means we will buy more useless helicopters and less public transportation.
Sometime prior to the political primaries, it was decided that our "candidates" would be Al Gore and George Bush. That choice was readily ratified through the primary system. Whatever may be the differences between the candidates, neither proposes to use our tax money in a way that returns more value than what we give up in taxes. In fact, both support a system that gives away what we already own. Our airwaves are given away free to giant media conglomerates. We pay to build roads so that we can give away our forests to giant timber and paper companies. We give away the oil, gold, silver and other resources on public land for a fraction of the value of these resources. Then, of course, we pay a lot of money to buy back those same resources in finished products. Do we get back more than we give away?
Instead of constructive projects, our government engages in destructive ones. We impose sanctions for ideological reasons that cause millions to die and cause countless others to have a reduced standard of living. At the same time, of course, we are not consistent with the ideology. Cuba is sanctioned, but a much larger repressive regime (China) is a favored trading partner. Iraq is sanctioned, but we provide support to Turkey, a country that is also persecuting its Kurdish population. The sanctions, of course, don't work -- they just make ordinary people miserable. After 40 years, Castro is still in power. After 10 years, Hussein is still in power. You would think we might learn from failure and try something different. Apparently, our leaders are not that smart.
Then there is the foolish drug war. Our leadership has been throwing our hard-earned dollars down the sewer called the "war on drugs" for 30 years. Our "dividend" for these billions spent is cheaper and more plentiful drugs, greater drug use and thousands of young adults in jail. And, although drug use is spread evenly throughout society, the wrath of the criminal system is overwhelmingly racist in its application.
Money for energy is disproportionately allocated to toxic industries, such as oil, coal and nuclear power. No big surprise there, since Bush and Cheney are both oilmen and Gore owns stock in Occidental Petroleum, which has been a long-time Gore family supporter. Only pennies are allocated for the proven safe and reliable technologies of wind and solar. Only pennies are allocated for other promising energy sources.
Both candidates seek to improve education through rhetoric and "accountability" rather than addressing the root problem -- under-funding of the school system. And, like investment in transportation, investment in education yields significant dividends to every American. Unfortunately, the prisons and defense systems are far more important to our leadership then education and transportation. In virtually every instance, programs are selected for expenditures based on their ability to transfer resources to the wealthy rather than on their ability to yield dividends to all Americans.
If we don't educate our kids, they won't understand any of this. If voters don't understand these things, democracy won't work very well. Elections will turn on personalities and not policies. Candidates can appeal to "patriotism" and personal fears, rather than presenting rational programs that yield real dividends for the American people.
Oh, really ...
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