Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Morning in America?

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."
--H.L. Mencken

Acknowledgments to Steve A. for posting that quote on his DFW Point to Point site.

As Andy Clarke says on the BikeLeague blog, Jim Oberstar,chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a longtime champion of a lot of Federal support for cycling programs, projects and infrastructure, was one of the casualties of the Tuesday Night Massacre, with the Dems playing the part of Gen. Custer's 7th Calvary and the Republicans and Tea Party folks playing the part of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

For me, this morning was the political equivalent of a cheap-whiskey hangover. My sense is that the American people may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Be that as it may...

One can cut the size and scope of Government, but when translated into real world terms, you may find yourself doing without things you have quietly taken for granted. The problem is not just the size of government but the shrinking of our tax base with the sagging U.S. economy to the point where it can’t easily support things we are used to having. Like good roads, good schools, and medical care. Somehow we have to grow our economy and tax base back, pay our bills, end our wars, and start building and exporting things again. I'd like to hear someone from either party offer something constructive here.

Greed and mistrust are separate issues. Americans are being brainwashed by extremist politics, esp. outlets like FAUX News (and during the Bush administration, by MoveOn and its ilk), into not trusting their government as far as they can throw it. Not surprising we would not trust it with our tax dollars. As far as greed? Look no farther than resistance to marginal tax cut increases and compare our taxes to other nations. Greed and mistrust have to go, too.

As far as bicycling. Bicyclists who use their bikes as real-world transportation rather than cartop decorations already know something about being conservative. As I said yesterday on the League's blog, I think bicycling advocates are going to have to be ready with some compelling arguments on why using bicycling (and other alternatives to the car) are cost-effective in a new political era where the House (which originates Federal spending bills) looks at every Federal expenditure with a sharp knife. That is going to mean talking to a lot of new Republicans who have been elected on the promise of shrinking our government. They and their constituencies often look critically at transportation alternatives, see bicycling as quaint and irrelevant, have made some bike-specific projects the laughing stock of the TV networks, and were elected yesterday. They will have to be convinced that there is value in some of this stuff and cycling advocates will have to be a lot more selective in what they ask for.

Perhaps more cycling advocacy should be delegated to the state and local levels, since bicycling as transportation is local. The Bike League might want to concentrate on key projects that have the most bang for the buck, such as LCI network expansion and core missions of preserving our cycling rights in an uncertain era. Trained and confident cyclists can ride on most roads, set good examples to non-cyclists, and are not highly dependent on new bike-specific infrastructure that might or might not be funded by this new and conservative Congress.

As Andy said, one of our best friends in Congress is gone. Single point failures, as we say in my business, are not good. Cycling should not rise or fall on the fickleness of one election cycle or on the promise of continued Federal funding. Like our bicycles, we will have to be quick and manuverable. We need to learn from the past. Check out this link to the history of the Physical Fitness movement under President Eisenhower.


John said...

"Cycling should not rise or fall on the promise of continued Federal funding." Bingo! And that's one of the primary reasons that education can be so effective in all fiscal seasons -- it's so much cheaper than paint and pavement, and relieves the dependency on expensive special infrastructure. One more reason we should be really pushing education.

Steve A said...

Conservative principles are consistent with getting government out of the business of telling people (including cyclists) what to do. If the League adapts it's message to appeal to a wider political spectrum, Olberstar is a price I'll gladly pay. I don't need govt money but govt meddling can drive me off my bike.

One thing I admire about the Forester message is its nonpartisan tone.