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Edward D. Reuss
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The December 2006 issue of Cars and Travel , the AAA of New York magazine, featured a short story that evoked an intense reaction from myself as well as friends and family. The story entitled:  Outsourcing Our Highways detailed how some of our politicians believe that the best way to maintain our highways is to privatize them!  For instance,  the current Governor of New Jersey, Governer Jon Cozine, is considering the possibility of privatizing the Garden State Parkway, and the New Jersey Turnpike , and the Atlantic City Expressway.  The idea is given the name: “public-private partnerships”  for selling or leasing highways built with taxpayers dollars to profit-seeking investors.  The article went on the say that even the out-going Governor of New York, George Pataki has floated a similar idea. 

Ah! Yes!   Here again we have another of our “Captains of Industry” showing us the way to give away the store.  Governor Cozine is a former Goldman Sachs Executive who is quite wealthy in his own right.   It is always interesting to ponder why multi-millionaires would seek public office.   It would seem to the naiive among us, that  the cost of running for elective office has rendered high public office as the turf of only the rich in America.  We voters are scolded when we question such things.  After all, don’t many of our wealthy elected officials refuse to take the salary that goes with the office? 
What generosity! What largesse!.  Shame on us for being envious of those who have prospered more than we have.

Yet, there are those who would suggest the crazy idea that the wealthy seek public office for reasons that are not so innocuous. For example, those in the private sector must always seek the approval of government bodies to allow corporate planning. Environmentalists and government agencies are a constant irritation to some who seek changes to land use and other issues. The current attempt to bring Nascar to Staten Island, New York comes to mind.

Once in public office, is there a possibliity of corruption raising its ugly head? Every community has what is called its “Master Plan” that spells out the urban planning that involves land use and future investment by the federal, state or muncipal government.   Do we taxpayers really want our corporate leaders elected to public office where they have the inside track on such planning?  Is it naiive to assume that such corporate leaders cannot  be corrupted? Isn’t that a little like having the “Fox in the hen house”?  Perhaps the concept of term limitations is a more valuable idea than we taxpayers realize?

Meanwhile, by what strange thinking do those in political power believe that they have the right to transfer ownership of our highways to corporations?  The Eisenhower Highway System was built over a period of fifty years at great taxpayer expense.  Only recently has that magnificent highway system been completed.   It is truly an Interstate Highway System. Federal taxes were used to build it.  Now we should give it away to private corporations? Such an idea boggles the mind! What gall to even propose such an idea.

The Interstate HIghway System provides freedom to all Americans.  Those who drive their cars pay the tolls for some of the roadways without protest.  They know that the tolls are used to maintain the roadways and bridges. That is a proper role for government. 

Are we to sell off our roads to stockholders of global corporations?  Will the holders of the corporate common stock of these corporations be concerned with the liberty of Americans? Will the “bottom line” of those global corporations cause the tolls to skyrocket so that the shareholders of those corporations can realize a profit? Will those shareholders be friends of the USA?

Those are only a few of the questions that come to mind at the idea of privatizing our highway system.  What about the question of the police? Will the New Jersey State Troopers patrol the now private Garden State Parkway?  Or will the global corporations provide their own private police to do that? What about accidents?  Who investigates them?  Will the corporations entertain lawsuits by those who are injured as a result of poor maintainance of the highways?

The politicians will challenge such attacks on their suggestions.  How do you propose to pay for the needed maintainance for our highways?  In my humble opinion, there are a few possible ideas.
First, raise taxes on petroleum! Raise taxes on gas?  How will those who drive those behemoth SUVs be expected to pay for the privilege? What a cruel idea! We in the United States have been used to paying less for gas than Europeans.   An increase in taxes on gas is not a high price to pay when one considers how global corporations could choke motorists with ever increasing tolls on privately owned highways.

Second, Should  the corporations pay higher highway use taxes? The trucking industry receives many benefits from the use of our Interstate Highway System.  The heavy weight of those trucks also causes the wear and tear on those same highways.  True, they do pay highway use taxes, but are those taxes commensurate with the profits that they make at the expense of the taxpayer? Rest assured that if and when the Interstate Highway System is privatized and run by global corporations, those trucking companies will pay for the profits of the shareholders of those same corporations.  Who will the trucking companies complain to? 

Wake up America!  

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Copyright 2006 Edward D. Reuss



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