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Monday, September 19, 2005

Anti-Tax Crusaders to Seattle: Drop Dead

Posted by on September 19 at 10:30 AM

The Seattle Times this morning has a very good article asking, in the wake of Katrina: Who’ll be to blame if the viaduct and the 520 bridge collapse? Just like the New Orleans levees, the viaduct and the 520 bridge are huge safety hazards likely to collapse during a natural disaster. But, for lack of money they haven’t been fixed. Instead, they’re just getting more deadly. The Seattle Times says:

Politicians, clerics and ethicists agree we have a moral obligation to fix infrastructure such as highways and levees that we know pose a risk to the public.

Who disagrees with this? The people who are backing I-912, the anti-gas-tax initiative. The money to fix the viaduct and the 520 bridge is coming, unless I-912 passes. Then the gas tax will be gone, and so will the money to fix these huge safety hazards.

How is a bad idea like I-912 being marketed as a good idea? With the same appeal to knee-jerk tax resentment, and anti-big-government sentiment, that Republicans at the national level use to win elections (and then, once in power, to gut public safety programs like, say, FEMA). So who will be to blame when the viaduct and the 520 bridge collapse? The anti-tax demagogues and the dopes who, against their own best interests (not to mention their moral obligations), follow them.

But…

Who will also be to blame? Politicians who, out of fear of alienating the state’s large anti-tax constituency, are now failing to frame the upcoming vote on I-912 as a vote to essentially defund Seattle’s levees. Katrina provides a huge opportunity to re-frame the debate on I-912, but, channeling my colleague Josh Feit here, politicians like Gov. Christine Gregoire aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity. In the Seattle Times article, under the ironic sub-header “Urging action,” Gregoire says:

“There’s no question in my mind you’re either going to fix it or somebody’s going to die.”

But she doesn’t make the link to I-912. She doesn’t say: If you vote for the gas tax repeal, you’re voting to let people driving on the viaduct die in the next earthquake. If Gregoire really wants to urge people toward action, she should urge them to vote against I-912. Again, channeling Josh Feit: Why won’t she?