President Obama is campaigning against the Republicans in the US House of Representatives who may or may not pass portions of his most recent "jobs" bill, by going to GOP leaders' home districts and complaining about their deteriorating bridges.
According to Obama's latest campaign strategy the state of the country's roads and bridges is clearly the responsibility of House, which is controlled by the GOP. But what is really shown by this tactic is that neither Obama, nor his campaign staff – sorry, White House aides – understand the procedure for funding bridge repairs, nor who takes responsibility for them.
Or, they're just lying to the public. More on that in a minute.
Next on his list is the Brent Spence Bridge carrying Interstates 75 and 71 over the Ohio River between Kenton County, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. Obama is scheduled to go there on Sept. 22 to bash the GOP and blame them for the bridge's deficiencies – specifically House Speaker John Boehner whose district is nearby.
Like many bridges on the federal interstate system the Brent Spence Bridge was designed in the late 1950s and built in the early 1960s. Like so many others of its era, when the interstate highway system was completed it opened previously inaccessible areas in Kentucky to suburban sprawl, which generated flight from the cities and traffic.
The original capacity of the bridge, named for the late Democratic US Congressman who represented the district, was 80,000 vehicles per day. It now sees nearly double that amount and the daily traffic forecasts are upwards to an anticipated 180,000 vehicles per day by 2030.
The bridge is being portrayed by the White House as "functionally obsolete" which if you know what that means, isn't quite such a big deal, but if you don't it sounds dangerous, and the White House is using it as a poster bridge for creating a sense of urgency.
The truth about the Brent Spence Bridge is that it is already well into the system for replacement, a massive undertaking that requires the combined operations of the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and the Federal Highway Administration.
The original bridge was opened in 1963 at a cost of $10 million and is now the second busiest Interstate Highway bridge in the country. But the new bridge will be designed for the anticipated excessive capacity and will cost about $500 million – think Solyndra in terms of where the administration could have made better uses of federal tax dollars.
According to the Ohio DOT's website construction is slated to begin in 2015.
Last week Obama went to Virginia and used the same tactic to bash the GOP Congressman from that area, going on about more than 90 bridges that if you believe his spiel are set to collapse at any minute dumping trillions of unsuspecting voters into gorges, chasms and rivers.
The problem for Obama is that not all bridges are created equally. There are federal bridges, state bridges and local bridges; all determined by which road crosses them. When he's talking about 90 bridges in one district it could range from something as big as the Delaware Memorial Bridge to a culvert over a small stream or ditch.
Generally speaking, local municipalities and towns take care of their bridges through local taxes and bonding initiatives, states maintain their bridges through state taxes, and also maintain the Interstate bridges through a federal formula that puts money into the pot.
The federal government gets the money to divvy up among the states partly from highway tolls plus our gas and road use taxes. But with that money comes regulations. There are maintenance plans and schedules, and for new construction there has to be a study, a plan, and a design phase.
Almost without exception, governmental agencies from the local to the national levels have an inspection, maintenance and planning schedule for every bridge for which they are responsible. But money sets the agenda and every single bridge is scheduled for repair or replacement based on priorities set by the people who inspect their bridges and how they compare to others in their district.
The Brent Spence Bridge project can’t even begin until the parties involved do all the planning and designing, which will include traffic, stresses, materials, drainage, anticipated growth, air quality, and hundreds of other issues. There has to be a noise reduction study, and a rerouting study for all the traffic that uses the bridge now. There even is a question of what to do with truck traffic.
So when the President of the United States of America throws out a blanket statement that a congressman is responsible for the state of a bridge or bridges in his or her district, he really is showing an amazing lack of understanding of the process or he is deliberately blowing smoke up the voters' panties.
And this is just one issue on his expansive agenda. Have you taken a close look at his efforts to eliminate taxes on corporate jets, or take away deductions for charity?
Guess who owns a corporate type jet and does lots of charity work? Hollywood actor Harrison Ford.
The AARP magazine in the August issue did a great article on Ford noting at one point that he undertook an intensive flight training program on both fixed wing and rotary aircraft when he was in his early 50s. He now owns 8 aircraft ranging from a Bell helicopter to a trans-Atlantic jet.
(When asked how he can own 8 aircraft and yet, as a longtime environmentalist, reduce his carbon footprint Ford replied that "I only fly one at a time." I like that response.)
Ford makes no apologies for loving to fly and using his aircraft to go on business trips as well as taking his families on vacations – thus avoiding public airports, paparazzi and giving his family a measure of privacy.
But Ford also has very quietly used his helicopter on rescue missions in the mountains of Wyoming where he has a home, and in 2010 used his jet to fly doctors and supplies to a remote area of Haiti after the earthquake there. He did not seek, nor receive publicity for his efforts there, any more than he did for his work with the local search and rescue force in Wyoming.
He is an Honorary Board Member of Wings of Hope which is billed as the world's oldest and largest volunteer, humanitarian, aviation-based charity. It is non-political, non-religious and doesn't take any tax dollars from the government.
Ford also is a staunch supporter of Israel which may not sit well with the current administration in the White House, even though he donated more than $30,000 to Barack Obama's campaign, mostly in the primary stage. He is a lifelong Democrat, but did donate $1,000 to John McCain's primary campaign in 1999.
So, are the policies of the Obama Administration going to hurt long-time supporters like Harrison Ford?
Obviously he deserves to get kicked in the teeth for playing roles as Compassionate Conservative government officials, including the President, and obviously he qualifies for tax breaks if he is incorporated – and why would a man reportedly worth $300 million not protect his life's earnings legally?
Ford isn't the only celebrity in this position; actors, entertainers, sports figures, and many others who make millions each year but rarely are defined as "The Rich" qualify for tax write offs on their travel and charitable work. Quite often I don't agree with their politics but that really isn't the issue here is it?
Aside from Warren Buffet who brags that his secretary pays more taxes than him, but falls short of restructuring her compensation so she wouldn't, I think these people have worked hard to get their rewards and deserve to keep as much of their earnings as possible. But are they now defined inside the White House as the "Useful Idiots" who will get screwed over by the very people they supported?
Sure looks like it from here.
Friday, September 16, 2011