Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Life is just a Bowl of Priorities

Few things are simple. Decisions made with a group are not decisions at all but compromises. The divorce rate is high but I'm amazed anyone stays together because each half wants something the other does not. So marriages either become bastions of compromise or long suffering "for the children." Which usually means for the money. Staying in a challenging marriage is chosen over a lower standard of living.
So you can imagine the difficulty as a legislator, trying to spend the taxpayer's money. They have to make decisions to please thousands of constituents enough to get reelected or at least not make too many angry enough to work against them. That has to be tough.
What got me thinking about this was the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota. That's one of our bedrock states, you rarely hear of bad things coming out of Minnesota. They have Garrison Keillor and Mary Tyler Moore's alter ago, Mary Richards. It may be cold a lot but the people are sturdy. The bridge that collapsed got a 50 out of 100 and was in line for repairs, but not considered dangerous. Half-empty or half-full? No one seems at fault and so far at least no one seems to be finger-pointing. But it does bring up the subject of infrastructure.
Infrastructure is not sexy. If you do it well no one notices. After all, it's not news when a bridge doesn't fall. It's the way its supposed to be. Hurricane Katrina didn't flood New Orleans even though those in charge would like it so - the levee splitting and spilling thousands of gallons of water did. That levee was man-made and man-repaired, by our own government's Army Corps of Engineers. Turns out it was designed badly and maintenance ignored. No wonder George W. Bush didn't want to go anywhere near the area following the disaster, then distancing himself with, "Heckuva job, Brownie." I'm sure his "cover-my-ass" advisors told him that much.
Politicians need to spend money for things that bring votes. Pork - a smelly name - is now "earmarks", i.e., I've earmarked a few choice things for my district. Sounds like they saved us a piece of cake.
The Iraq War is running a tab of trillions - a billion here a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money - and so far at least serving no purpose except killing people. Yet still they continue, no one quite able to figure out how to disengage. It's a complete shambles, where to start. Even if someone said get out tomorrow, an army can't move that fast and you can't do it gradually and leave the remaining unprotected.
But all the money spent on Iraq would have paid for all our country's infrastructure repairs with enough left over to give health insurance to all. The critics say they don't want another government program. What do they think the Iraq War is, if not a government handout to the so-called military industrial complex? That's a large umbrella - food, vehicles, clothing, equipment, construction, etc. Not only tearing apart a country but rebuilding it, too. Huge profit there. And now it seems that 30% of our weapons went missing, presumably in the hands of enemies. We are not only spending our tax dollars on arming the US military forces but the Iraqi ones, too, or worse, our future enemies. Maybe even al Queda. That's some irony.
I've always paid the rent first then the other ongoing bills then decided what I could afford to splurge on. As a result I have money in the bank, good credit, a home and most of all, security for my future. Those are my priorities honed in me by my Dad, an exemplary saver, as many in his generation were. He'd seen poverty during the depression and never wanted his children to suffer for lack of money. To him, having an old car or TV was not suffering, but not having money to buy necessities, that was. My Dad took care of his family because he understood that was his job.
If only our politicians cared more about taking care of their constituents and not just about getting their vote. If only they did their job.