Tag Archives: potholes

RHODES ON ROADS

Leeson
Leeson, 3, playing in the driveway.

I was sitting on the front porch yesterday evening, watching our 3-year-old grandson, Leeson, digging in the dirt that constitutes our circular drive way.   He had his back to me and happily played for over two hours.   I think he was enjoying some alone time as his 4-year-old brother, Aubren, had gone to play golf with his dad.   His younger brother no longer likes golf after falling off the golf cart (it was parked) and getting a couple stitches over his eye.   And Grandpa hasn’t liked golf since making a fool of himself the last time he played!  It was so bad, the city closed down the golf course soon afterwards, though this may have been a coincidence.

Back to the driveway.   I couldn’t see exactly what he was doing, but when he finally came in to the house to eat his dinner (or, rather, not eat it) I walked over to where he was playing and looked at his handiwork.

What Leeson had done was dig his own little pothole.

Clearly influenced by driving on Michigan’s roads, where potholes are ubiquitous, this future citizen is growing up thinking this is the norm.   I’m going to have to tell him, when he is old enough to understand, that once upon a time there were no potholes in Michigan.  In fact, when Grandpa and Grandma left Ghana for the United States in 1990, they naively thought that potholes were a thing of the past!

We never expected that, 25 years later, Michigan would be worse than Ghana for potholes.

Presumably, the United States has the technology to fix the roads, so that can’t be the problem.   A recent letter to our local newspaper was written by a man who had driven from Florida to Michigan, driving through a number of states, and remarked on how the roads deteriorated as soon as he crossed the state line from Ohio into Michigan.   He rather unkindly wrote that he didn’t need a sign to tell him he had reached Michigan – the state of the roads was enough to say where he was.

It’s been like this for a while, two or thee years.   Nothing is ever done about it.   For all the roadworks that seem to take place here, there are still potholes galore.

Perhaps all our taxes are going to Flint to improve the water quality before the entire population dies from lead poisoning.   I doubt it. Infrastructure does not appear to be a priority.

The question is: where are our taxes going?

We pay road taxes in different ways – our gas is amongst the most expensive in the United States.   Before we cross back into Michigan from Indiana, where our daughter and family live, we fill up our gas tank to save money.  If we smoked, we’d buy our cigarettes there, too; and if I drank a lot, I’d buy my beer there as there’s no deposits on bottles or cans.

An attempt was made last year to raise the sales tax (on everything except food) from 6-7%, but was rejected by the voters. Quite simply, the people did not trust their government to actually use the money to fix the roads. The 6% should be enough, together with a high tax on gas and car registration fees. Again, where’s all the money going?

Michigan taxpayers had to bail out the city of Detroit to the tune of $191 million, following years of corrupt administration in the city, where officials pocketed a great deal of the local tax revenue.   More recently, Michigan taxpayers have had to bail out the city of Flint to rectify its water situation.   Again, the problem was caused by the local city council.   The inevitable lawsuits will themselves run into millions, every dollar of which could be used to fix the roads.

Meanwhile, voters are forking out thousands each year on car repairs, made essential by the state of the roads.   At least the body shops are doing well!

It’s time the Legislature made a determined effort to solve this problem.   It might be more of a priority for the Governor if he didn’t fly around in a helicopter – from his perspective, the roads look fine!

To be fair, there is only one pothole in my drive.  I suspect, however, that Leeson will be out there again today digging up more of our own little road, until there are a dozen potholes in the drive, making it a more authentic stretch of Michigan road!

Perhaps, 15 years from now, when he graduates from High School, Leeson can work for the Transportation Department and help fix the roads.   I’m convinced those potholes will still be there.

IS THIS HOW DEMOCRACIES PERISH?

us-government-we-need-a-tow

It’s election season in both the United States and the United Kingdom.   People on both sides of the Atlantic are enduring the nightly trauma of electioneering.

The good news is that, in the UK, the election will be over in two weeks.   On the other side of the pond, we have another nineteen months and a few days to go.

Watching both elections on television, I’ve been asking myself:  Is this how democracies perish?

Every politician seems to promise the moon, while at the same time avoiding any issue of substance.

There was a time when government had only two responsibilities – national security, without which there would be no country, and the maintenance of a stable currency, without which there would be financial chaos.

That’s all changed in the last hundred years.   Now governments have their hands in everything – and the electorate responds by holding out their own hands begging for more.

Can we ever turn the clocks back to the big two?   Life would be a lot better all round if government got off our backs and concentrated on nothing but defense and currency stability.

For all its claims to be a “people’s republic” (a communist term), China’s government doesn’t seem to do anything except defend the people and ensure the stability of their currency.   Of course, the role of the military in China involves a great deal of oppression.   But, when it comes to the economy, they have a free enterprise system that is working a lot better than any of ours in the West.

The British government boasts of a growth rate that is less than 3%, while China laments theirs is down to only 7%.   Whose system works best?

The Chinese government is not likely to look to the Bible for inspiration, but they should heed the lessons contained in I Samuel, chapter 8.  In this chapter, the people asked Samuel for a king, like all the other nations.

God was not pleased with this and warned the people of what to expect:

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king.   11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you:   He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots.   12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.   13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.   14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.   15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.   16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.   17 He will take a tenth of your sheep.   And you will be his servants.   18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” (vs 8-18)

You get the idea.   This is the first recording of Parkinson’s Law, that government inevitably expands, costing the tax-payer more and more money.   The problem in the US and UK is democracy, with the people wanting more and more.   Inevitably, this leads to government expanding.   It’s a warning to China not to democratize!

We have a special election in Michigan in a few days.   A proposal is being put before the people to raise the sales tax by another 1%.   It may not sound like much, but if you buy a used car for $10,000 right now, the tax will be $600.   After the vote, it would be $700.

The money is to be used to fix our roads, which would be a disgrace even in Africa.

While many will vote “yes” because they are tired of their cars hitting massive potholes, they are failing to look at the bigger picture.   Where has all the money gone that was previously allocated to roads?   If they look closely, they will find that it’s expanded the bureaucracy and given employees higher salaries and greater benefits, in the form of pensions and healthcare.   It has also been revealed that the state department responsible for roads has lost the warranties on roads that were previously fixed by private contractors, meaning that the taxpayer will have to pay again for the same repairs!

Additionally, the state has been wasteful.   Detroit was bailed out to the tune of $191 million.

A new “Welcome Center” is being built at the Capitol, costing an estimated $100 million.   A new State Police headquarters was built for $38 million, when the previous building was quite adequate and rented for $1 per year thanks to a generous donation.   The list goes on and on.   Waste, waste and even more waste.   It’s easy to spend other peoples’ money.

Government is inherently profligate.   The less we have of it the better.   Our ancestors understood that, which is one reason why Great Britain and the United States rose to great wealth and power.

Sadly, their descendants think that more government is the solution to every problem.   As we go down this road, the burdens on the taxpayer will only increase until we collapse under the weight of our own excess.

Perhaps we should all learn a lesson from HSBC, the world’s third biggest bank.   The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation moved its headquarters to London when Hong Kong reverted to China.   They are now thinking of moving back, to either Hong Kong or Singapore, both run by ethnic Chinese.   Taxes are lower and there is far less government regulation in these two city-states.

If they do move, it will be a big blow to London’s status as the world’s primary financial center.

This is one of those major issues the politicians are likely to avoid, as no government will stick its neck out to defend the banks.

How long our democracies last will be determined by how much government the people want.   On that score, things are not looking good on either side of the Atlantic.

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