Infrastructure? A problem? Your politicians are on it

On Aug. 2, the day after the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis collapsed, Sen. Chris Dodd, a presidential candidate, told his fellow senators:

Fixing our Nation’s crumbling infrastructure is an issue that cannot be neglected or deferred any further. This demands our immediate attention and commitment in the Senate. The quality of life in our country hangs in the balance. [emphasis added]

With that address, he introduced, with Sen. Chuck Hagel (he who thought about being a presidential candidate), Senate Bill 1926 — the National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2007. That it’s a bad bill isn’t the point here.

What’s happened to it? And where’s that “immediate attention and commitment in the Senate”?

Only one additional co-sponsor, Sen. Hillary Clinton, also a presidential candidate, has signed on to Sens. Dodd and Hagel’s bill, which has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

There, according to Senate records, it rests among 108 bills referred to the committee, including such important Senate business as the “Promoting Fully Informed Investment Decision Making Act of 2007” (S. 2015); the “Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Commemorative Coin Act” (S. 1664); a “bill to authorize Congress to award a gold medal to Jerry Lewis, in recognition of his outstanding service to the Nation” (S. 1603); the “Model T Ford Automobile Commemorative Coin Act” (S. 587); “a bill to amend titles 10 and 14, United States Code, to provide for the use of gold in the metal content of the Medal of Honor” (S. 288); and the “Coinage Materials Modernization Act of 2007” S. 1986).

A companion House measure of the same name (H.R. 3401), filed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), has only one co-sponsor, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) It has been referred to two House committees — Transportation and Infrastructure, and Financial Services.

Anything else happen?

The Senate passed S. 775, the National Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2007. Well, it’s not an “improvement” bill. It’s a measure to study the infrastructure problem. Report’s due in February 2009. House version is still in committee.

A bridge collapsed. People died. Politicians postured. Politicians procrastinated. Then they went on a month’s vacation. The quality of life in our country hangs in the balance.

9 replies »

  1. This is one of my bigger peeves. People either lack the attention span, the time, or the ability to realize that just because a politician says they’ll do something doesn’t mean that he or she will follow through on it. Just because Bush pledges money in aid doesn’t mean that the aid ever actually gets to those who need it – the House and Senate have to agree, poison pills have to be avoided, and even if it gets through this gauntlet, there’s still the losses to bureaucratic “overhead” to take into account too.

    Sound bites are just that – bites. We need WAY more people to follow up on all this stuff and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire.

  2. I was taught very early in my career that legislation does not necessarily equal implementation. That was before the “sound bite” era we’re in today.

    As news folks everywhere are told: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”

  3. It says a lot about how much our Congress’ priorities are driven by media posturing and news soundbites when the Senate can muster a supermajority to condemn a newspaper ad, but can’t get any traction on legislation to improve our bridges, or ban abusive credit lending practices for that matter.

    I always remind people that just because one branch of the legislature passes a bill, it’s NOT law. This is another example of the same thing–our process is a lot slower and more torturous than most people’s ADHD-addled, fruit-fly-level attention spans can handle.

  4. I think everyone is missing an important point here.

    This is about people trusting that the government will act in the country’s best interest. If there’s anything the last 42 years have taught us (since roughly the Gulf of Tonkin Resoultion), it’s that the government has increasingly become about its own interests – and those of its corporate masters.

    Because of the loss of confidence in government caused by Nixon, compounded by the deflection from responsibility for governing fostered by Reagan and accepted as practice by Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, we now find ourselves in a situation where government in the US is seen much as rule by the czars was seen in its time – far away, self-involved, and wildly vacillating between distantly unhelpful and intrusively meddling.

    Unfortunately for all of us, the issues government has chosen to ignore and those it has chosen to meddle in are now driven by narrowly defined interest groups motivated by either some form of religious fanaticism or Mammon worshipping corporate criminals.

    We’re in a mess and we need help – but we keep turning to government for that help. At some point one hopes the “Aha!” moment will come and people will begin to unite in action for the best interest of their communities. That might be the start of a sea change that’s desperately needed – government that is by the people, of the people, and for the people in a purer state than we’ve experienced it in a long time….

  5. Think of our nation’s bridges collapsing and people dying as being comparable to our nation’s uninsured children getting ill, collapsing and possibly even dying due to lack of affordable, “no-strings” health insurance, and we have all the proof we need to put truth to the lie of “compassionate conservatism.”

    Corporate greed-mongers. Republican war-mongers. A coopted and corrupted MSM. Tax cuts for the wealthiest while denying benefits to the neediest in our society. Corporate control, through lobbyists, of the highest levels of our democratic government. Orthodox Christian fanatics preaching hate of their “neighbors” and doing things against their “neighbors” that Jesus Christ wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot wooden cross.

    Sounds to me like a recipe for disaster…after disaster…after disaster…with the United States becoming more and more each day like a Third World banana republic…or like Germany before World War II. Incredible.