Pothole Nation: Symptom of an underlying disease?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Pothole Nation
WHO WILL PAY FOR THE REPAIRS? A new Gallup poll says Americans are not inclined to pay through taxes.

WHO WILL PAY FOR THE REPAIRS? A new Gallup poll says Americans are not inclined to pay through taxes.

Our long, brutal winter created a pothole problem.

This week we’ve focused on a wide range of related issues. There are many politicians, policies, special interest groups, and government agencies to blame, as we discussed Monday. We’ve covered how much it costs you in car repair and maintenance, whether legalizing and taxing pot is an answer to the pothole problem, and America’s dismal grades on its Report Card for infrastructure, given by the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Today, we conclude by asking: Are potholes a symptom of a bigger problem?

What struck me about the ASCE’s report wasn’t the nation’s near-failing grade. It was the long history of bad grades. Since 1998, the nation has been averaging only Ds.

Potholes are a symptom of a chronic underlying condition. For years we’ve put off maintenance and under-invested in infrastructure. We can’t blame the recent economic recession. We’ve been doing this at least since 1998, which means we do it in economic booms and busts.

Are we reluctant to pay taxes for infrastructure? Some people have called taxes legalized theft, but the analogy crumbles when you think about it. When something is stolen from you, you get nothing in return. When we pay taxes, we get roads, education, defense, and more. Of course, we can quibble about how taxes are used, and whether they are used efficiently. But we do get something in return.

We Americans are allergic to taxes. Consider that now almost half of Americans (49%) say that that middle-income Americans pay too much when it comes to taxes, according to an April 2014 Gallup poll. That’s the highest since 1999. Those who say middle-income Americans pay their “fair share” is down 11 percentage points from last year.

The reality is that taxes have increased—but only for the top earners. Not for the middle class. The chronic problem, then, is that most Americans are unwilling to pay for better roads and infrastructure. Better to keep taxes low. Let the next generation deal with the infrastructure.

Just watch those potholes!

Are potholes a symptom of a bigger problem?

Would you support a tax increase if it was devoted to infrastructure repair and maintenance?

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Comments

  1. Rev. Rich Peacock says

    Our Presidents and Congresses prioritize Pentagon spending and borrowing to pay for our wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have not remembered the analysis of President Eisenhower: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
    It is time to move the money from Pentagon spending to using our taxes to rebuild our infrastructure, hire teachers, overcoming poverty, and build a green economy.