Devolving America: Tearing down our roads


I recently made a passing reference to our collective “peasant mentality,” quoting Matt Taibbi to the effect that:

[A]ctual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea . . . after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. . . . A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. [ellipses mine]

So I’m not surprised by this, from the Wall Street Journal (h/t Digby, my emphasis):

Roads to Ruin: Towns Rip Up the Pavement
Asphalt Is Replaced By Cheaper Gravel; ‘Back to Stone Age’

SPIRITWOOD, N.D.—A hulking yellow machine inched along Old Highway 10 here recently in a summer scene that seemed as normal as the nearby corn swaying in the breeze. But instead of laying a blanket of steaming blacktop, the machine was grinding the asphalt road into bits. . . .

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. . . .

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel. . . .

But higher taxes for road maintenance are equally unpopular. . . . “I’d rather my kids drive on a gravel road than stick them with a big tax bill,” said Bob Baumann, as he sipped a bottle of Coors Light at the Sportsman’s Bar Café and Gas in Spiritwood. . . .

Sportsman’s Bar owner Hilda Kuntz worries that the classic cars and bikers that roll through town in the summer will stay away.

It’s going to kill my business,” she said.

But letting the Bush tax cuts expire is never on the table. When you give money to the rich, they keep it and never give it back. Our betters, and the peasants who love them.

Notice that Baumann, the anti-tax freak in the story, is drinking in the roadside joint whose business his attitude is killing. Talk about confluence. If you’re looking for a reason to be pessimistic, this is it. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching the dimmest guy in class slit his own throat — slowly.

GP


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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