Rockford, Illinois, USA
February 05
I'm a regular middle aged guy, living in a regular middle class neighborhood, in a regular middle-sized community in the middle of America. I am an expatriate Texan transplanted to the Midwest, and wondering how I got here, and where I'm headed.

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AUGUST 25, 2011 12:14PM

Man-Made Disasters and Pandering Politicians

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        Yes, we'll gather at the river,

        the beautiful, the beautiful river;

        gather with the saints at the river

        that flows by the throne of God.


It was a beautiful Thursday morning when a large crowd began to gather on the banks of the Rock River to watch their friends and loved ones experience the ordinance of baptism.  The town’s Baptist minister, Rev. J.H. Pratt, was welcoming nine new parishioners, including his own young daughter, into Christian fellowship by fully immersing them in the river water, still cold on this early May date. 


truesdell bridge


As the crowd of onlookers grew, many chose to get a better view from the nearby Truesdell Bridge, an impressive structure that was the pride of the city’s business community.  The bridge had been dedicated less than five years earlier.  The entire structure, other than the floor beams and the heavy mason supports, was made of iron.  In fact, it was the first iron bridge to span the Rock River.  It was built to withstand many, many tons of weight, and was intended to last a hundred years or more.

About 250 people gathered on the bridge to observe the baptism ceremony.  While Rev. Pratt baptized the third celebrant of the day, the bridge tender warned the onlookers not to lean on the side railing.  Some heeded the warning, others did not.  In a few minutes, according to The Chicago Tribune, “There was a sharp snap between the north end and the first pier, apparently of the cord near the end. This part of the bridge then commenced to drop as fast as iron and wood could.”

The mayhem that followed lasted only a minute or two.  Heavy iron beams and stone masonry quickly collapsed into the cold, watery depths, trapping anyone unfortunate enough to fall in the way.  Some who managed to escape the falling beams still succumbed to the cold.  Several were young, too young to have learned how to swim.  When it was over, 45 citizens of Dixon, Illinois, were dead.  Of that number, 35 were women and children, and many young mothers accompanied their children as they, like the lyrics of the song proclaim, gathered with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God.  It was the worst disaster ever to befall the small city of Dixon, and the worst disaster that has ever occurred along the entire length of the Rock River.


truesdell bridge collapse


I learned about the Truesdell Bridge disaster in a recent article in my local newspaper.  A new memorial had just been dedicated to the victims of that day.  Reading about this disaster, it occurred to me just how infrequently disasters of this magnitude happen anymore, at least in modern, developed societies.  Of course, we still suffer from terrible natural disasters.  There is little we can do to prevent the kind of devastation wrought by a Japanese tsunami or a Missouri tornado.  But man-made disasters like the Truesdell Bridge collapse rarely occur anymore.  Why is that?

Terrible disasters were once common.  In 1915, 845 men, women, and children died in Lake Michigan when an over-crowded ferry running from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana, sank in the lake’s cold water.  Four years later in Boston, a large storage tank containing over two million gallons of molasses burst, creating an eight-foot tall river of the heavy, sticky sweetener moving at 35 miles per hour.  When it was over, 21 people had been crushed or drowned, and 150 more injured.  In 1917, 163 men were killed by a fire that erupted inside a copper mine in Granite City, Montana.  Also in 1917, 200 were killed outside of Pittsburgh in a chemical plant explosion.  The next year, more than a hundred were killed in Morgan, New Jersey, in another chemical explosion. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York killed 146, virtually all of them women working in sweat shop conditions

Notice a commonality among these disasters?  First, these catastrophes were all man-made, and could have been avoided had proper safety procedures been in place and enforced.  Secondly, all of the ones I listed in the paragraph above occurred in a single decade.  And that doesn’t even include the most famous disaster of that era, the sinking of the Titanic, or the most catastrophic, the Halifax harbor explosion that killed over 2000 in 1917.

Terrible disasters of this sort continued to occur in America with regularity into the mid-20th century.  In 1947, nearly 600 were killed in the port of Texas City, Texas, when an explosion occurred on a ship docked there.  Until the terrorist attacks of 9-11, more fire fighters died fighting the resulting Texas City blaze than in any other fire in American history.  In 1972, 125 were killed and 4,000 left homeless when a coal slurry dam burst in West Virginia.  It was the deadliest mining-related disaster since 1917, and none has occurred since then that comes close to the death count of that terrible tragedy.

What stands out to me is that, in North America and the developed world, these types of catastrophic man-made disasters are now extremely rare.  That’s not to downplay what still occurs with frightening regularity in less developed parts of the world.  We aren’t terribly surprised to hear of a bridge collapse or ferry sinking or chemical explosion in places like Bangladesh or Indonesia or Nigeria.  But when they happen in the United States or Great Britain, we’re shocked.  We’re outraged.

What was once common is now rare.  Safety regulations exist now that did not exist a hundred years ago.  Of course, enforcement is just as important. 

As we enter a new election cycle, I think it is a worthy exercise to remember a time when disasters struck with regularity.  I think it is good to ask why such events occur so rarely now.  When we hear presidential candidates heap scorn on the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), we need to remember what life was like before such regulatory bodies existed.  We need to appreciate the progress we have made, and understand why, exactly, we have these laws and regulations that some unfortunately choose to demagogue and slander. 

When a presidential candidate calls for a moratorium on all regulations, like Rick Perry did last week, does that mean going back to a time when bridge collapses like the one that occurred in Dixon, Illinois, were fairly common?  Does that mean going back to a time when harbor explosions killed hundreds, or even thousands?  Does that mean going back to a time when fatal fires and explosions inside factories occurred every couple of months?  Does that mean refusing to monitor or enforce existing laws that have protected the United States from the kind of disasters that still occur regularly in the Third World?

If that is not what these politicians mean, then what, exactly, is their point?  How many avoidable deaths do they consider acceptable?

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You make an excellent point that safety regulations are in place for an excellent reason. Remember the Massey Mine explosion last year that killed 29 miners? Investigators blamed Massey Energy for failing to properly ventilate the mine, allowing a build-up of methane. The investigators also laid blame at the feet of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the damn idiots in charge of enforcing the regulations. Those fools did shit in reponse to the 500+ violations for which Massey was cited in 2009.

Rick Perry, like the Republican Party, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate America. As is much of the Democratic Party.
Stim, you're absolutely correct -- regulations mean nothing without enforcement. As bad as that Massey Mine disaster was, it's worth remembering events like that used to happen a lot. From 1907 to 1909 there were nearly 500 fatal coal mine disasters in the United States, resulting in over 1700 deaths. Things have improved immeasurably since then, but lax enforcement can certainly reverse the trend, as Massey has shown.
Interesting points, Pro. I'd add the I35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007. I have no idea what your pols are thinking (always assuming they are, in fact, thinking and not just pandering) when it comes to safety and the general good.

Just the opposite is happening here. I got an e-mail today from our local MPP that points out how much has been spent since 2003 on improving infrastructure across the province, among other things. Just for example, enough new roads have been built and others rebuilt to create a highway from here to Alaska -- 5,500 km.

That's change I can get behind.
boanerges, I fear the bridge collapse in Minneapolis could be repeated again as our infrastructure continues to age. Oh how I wish we would take our inflated defense budget and direct a huge part of those funds to infrastructure.
Excellent point, well made. This should be an Op-Ed piece in the Times!
well Lea, I don't know about that, but I appreciate your comment just the same!
This is a well-written article, and I agree with your overall points. But there's a glaring omission here: Katrina's effects on New Orleans. The number of deaths strictly due to the natural disaster (i.e., the storm surge along the coast, wind damage, etc.) were just a fraction of total death toll: 238 deaths in Mississippi, and certainly a fraction of the deaths in New Orleans. But the majority of the 700+ deaths and damage in Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard Parishes are a direct result of failure of the man-made levees. The levees and canals failed in 53 locations, due to a variety of human errors: stabilizing walls not buried deep enough, and often buried in soft sediment; levees filled with newspaper instead of rock; and poorly designed canal walls. The Army Corps themselves have admitted that design and structural failures are at fault.

Just as with your other examples, the devastation in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina was "man-made, and could have been avoided had proper safety procedures been in place and enforced."
NOLA, I considered adding New Orleans, but decided against, opting for a more clear-cut definition of man-made. But your point is well made, and only adds to the message of this post, that failure to enforce safety regulations carries fatal consequences. We do not need more Katrina-esque devastation. Thank you for your comment.
excellent essay, procopius. i think an acceptable number to the politicians who see abolishing government regulations (and *government*, actually) would have no upper limit. especially if they could figure out a way that insurance companies (some of their best pals) didn't have to pay any claims on disasters like that either. and we think we live in a civilized society. [sigh]

This was an interesting and unique what of demonstrating a valid point, and an issue that is developing as right-wingers attempt to eliminate such governmental agencies as the EPA.

I just posted something new, and saw your post on my favorites list. It is interesting that this post mentions the EPA, as does the one I just posted, which presents aspects of a conversation I had last night with a right-wing co-worker who said we should get rid of the EPA, among other silly ideas.

Ideas currently driving the right-wing are reaching unbelievable levels of absurdity. It is scary, not that full-grown adults think these things, but that some of those adults either are working in our government working on legislation, or stand a good chance of being there soon.

Candace, there is an entire network devoted to demonizing most aspects of government, and sadly, it is effective.

Rick, your comment reminds me of something I heard yesterday on TV. Some tea partier was saying that until we get rid of all these "entitlements", the United States would remain in big economic trouble. This speaker laid the blame of our current economic downturn on the demands of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and spoke as if those programs were inherently bad for the country. I was flabbergasted. Rather than make minor adjustments to the payroll tax, he implied that the programs themselves should be virtually eliminated. That view is becoming mainstream among many, and it is scary.
May I make a suggestion? It's not a new one. Roosevelt did it 80 years ago. How about the government sets about repairing all the current large bridges in use, to put people back to work in all effected states. The bridge collapse in Minneapolis wasn't that long ago, and Minnesota is not considered a "poor" state, so there's a huge problem here that could be fixed....

GOD, don't be silly. That would require spending money, and when the government spends money it is a bad thing and is the root of our nation's ills. At least that is what Eric Cantor told us a few weeks ago. Except for when we spend it on defense, of course.
Thanks for the perspective, Steve. It's easy to forget that a lot of the bad things that happened in the past don't happen today because we can predict and prevent them. (And we probably could have done so in the past if we'd cared or paid attention.) Modern safety isn't some magical benefit of modernity; it's the result of an active process.
Rob, thank you for such a succinct summary of the issue. In fact, this post was largely inspired by your last one.
Excellent point. One thing that you don't note: refinery fires, deep-water well accidents etc. are not uncommon. Texas City has had several incidents - though not huge ones - in recent times. (I'd have to do research to tell you when exactly, but living here in Tex-oilia, they do register to some degree.) But the oil industry is emblamatic of resistance to regulation, as the behaviors of those on Deep Water Horizon proved.
Rated and supported.
Blue, there was an incident in Texas City in 2005 in which 15 were killed. It was an explosion at a BP facility, and OSHA later determined BP was guilty of hundreds of safety violations and committed criminal violations of US environmental laws. This is another example where proper enforcement of good laws was lacking, and had existing laws been enforced, lives could have been saved.

blufeather, thank you for stopping by.
I have not heard anyone say there is no roll for government. There is a need to stop over reaching government. I just read about a man charged and facing two years in jail for shooting a bear that was a threat to his family because it's endangered. Bear vs. my children, good bye bear.

You are also compairing appes to oranges. Are you saying that the bridge that collapsed was not built to the available standards of over 100 years ago? No it was not built to today's standards. How about in 100 years someone comes back and looks at your works. Is it going to be fair for them to say you killed somebody because you didn't live up to what is available to them?

Yes, we need some bridge and road work. There are those here that think the government should jump in, spend trillions of dollars right now that we don't have and put people back to work fixing them. So i have a question for you. Who here is willing to give up their office job to go stand in the sun and rain to dig ditches and pound a hammer? Who here has an accounting type unemployed friend who is willing to forget about their college education to be a construction worker? I made the comment here that I was looking to hire a $50,000 a year to start truck driver and a part-time, work from home, bookkeeper here and got zero replies. Somehow I don't think anyone here is willing to run a bulldozer from $35,000 a year.
"How many avoidable deaths do they consider acceptable?"

Only if those deaths are among THEIR OWN--which is to say, those of privilege and wealth and WHO MATTER.

That's what makes people like (P)Rick Perry so vile: he really does NOT give a goddam about who's a working stiff. Remember "Reaganomics" when poverty was so criminalized and demonized: "if you're not working, then it must be YOUR fault." Perry will never give a rat's ass about you or I b/c we DON'T matter. He's so beholden to his own base--white, wealthy, privileged, "Christian"--who'd never be caught dead working in a mine or a factory or otherwise EARNING an honest living--perish forbid!

Which makes you wonder about the recent NY/DC/NC earthquake and H'Irene. I bet Perry wouldn't have enough shorts to change into if he was there when it happened. Then you could bet that enough $$ would be found for hurricane forecasting.
Shh about large disasters in North America.
catnlion, I appreciate your thoughts, but I have a little different take. As to the bear story, I found an online article that stated a man in Florida was arrested for shooting a bear near his back yard. He was arrested under a state law that prohibits killing endangered animals. I did not see whether he was convicted or jailed. To your other points:

You ask: "Are you saying that the bridge that collapsed was not built to the available standards of over 100 years ago?" No, I am not saying that. I am saying that over the past hundred years, and mostly over the past 50 years, safety and building codes have improved immeasurably, eliminating most of the accidents that occurred with frightening regularity before 1950. Much, and probably most, of those safety improvements are the result of gov't regulations that was usually opposed by private industry.

There are several people running for president, not just Perry, who would like to roll back many of the regulations that have helped to prevent fatal accidents. Perry has publicly stated he wants to scale back the EPA's power to regulate the oil and petrochemical industries, even after the recent BP oil spill, and the 2005 Texas City chemical explosion that killed 15. They have supported scaling back enforcement funding for OSHA, EPA, and other regulatory agencies to a crippling degree.

The complaint that you cannot find workers is off the point. But I happen to think we do have the money to spend for infrastructure repairs. If we can allocate $700,000,000,000 to defense, half the total amount spent worldwide, we can certainly use some of that for domestic spending. I suspect you'll find plenty of people willing the jobs as long as hiring companies will train new workers, something many companies are hesitant to do.
elsma03, better be careful or certain people will start accusing you of class warfare! Your last paragraph reminds me that the current Congress has drastically reduced funding for NOAA, the organization that has been able to give NYC and the East Coast three days advanced warning on the hurricane. I just heard that 12 of NOAA's 13 satellites are at the end of their predicted life, and there aren't any replacements in the works. We may be going back to weather balloons.

Don, North America has been pretty fortunate for the past generation or so. I hope that continues.
Some minds is truly amazing. We spend $2.3 TRILLION on entitlments each year and about $800 BILLION on defense, and the only thing that matters is . . . . . what we spend on our military.

A wise person would not even waste the effort to counter that kind of spin.

Perry certainly did NOT mean he would indulge in a wholesale repeal of existing rules and regulations. However, you can't hate the guy unless you tar him with the brush you did. Spin on!

Catnlion has the better point. It's not that government shouldn't regulate some things. The debate is where one draws the line at overreaching.
UncleChri, this post is not about the merits of entitlement spending, but rather about the amazing reduction in catastrophic loss of life from man-made accidents and avoidable disasters. That amazing reduction, in my view, is largely due to the imposition of regulations concerning building codes, environmental protections, and occupational safety rules, many of which are under fire. Some might argue that Perry's moratorium does not affect existing rules, since he only stated he wanted a moratorium on "new" regulations. That argument is fallacious, since new technologies often cannot be regulated with rules that apply to older ones. WE cannot assume, for example, that natural gas fracking is safe and has no adverse impact on ground water, and yet Perry opposes any efforts to look into that issue. His moratorium would prevent any safety regulation on this new technology.

As for your first paragraph, which is really outside the scope of this post, I would make two points. First, "entitlement" seems to carry a derogatory meaning, but frankly, I do feel "entitled" to reap benefits from the thousands of dollars I have contributed to social security and medicare. I am also glad the poorest among us have the Medicaid available to them, and mustn't simply rely on family members or others to try to care for them if they become seriously ill. Secondly, I'm not sure where your figures came from, but according to the CBO, in 2010 social security accounted for 20% of federal spending, Medicare/Medicaid 23%, and defense accounted for 20%. Not sure what other entitlements you refer to in stating they cost so much more than defense.

I think defense is an area we can cut, much more easily than entitlements. On the other hand, entitlements do need to be fixed, and I think that is a fairly easy proposition. Eliminate the cap on the payroll tax, or at least raise it significantly. Perhaps raise the age at which one can receive social security to 70 (although that is debatable, since forcing older workers to remain on the job will reduce opportunities for young people just entering the work force).
Here's what you wrote:

"The complaint that you cannot find workers is off the point. But I happen to think we do have the money to spend for infrastructure repairs. If we can allocate $700,000,000,000 to defense, half the total amount spent worldwide, we can certainly use some of that for domestic spending."

It seems you ARE willing to talk about what we spend on defense, but you are NOT willing to mention a group of federal outlays three times as big. . . .

I guess it isn’t ‘spin’ if you are ignorant (means ‘unaware’, not ‘stupid’). But why comment on a topic about which you apparently know so little?

Perhaps you don’t agree, for some strange reason, that Food Stamps, Section 8 housing subsidies, federal unemployment, etc.,. are entitlement programs. Yet, I suspect you have heard, and know something about, each of these programs.

I suspect that you would be hard pressed to distinguish them from the old age, disability, or survivor disbursements made by the Social Security Administration or from the healthcare payments made on behalf of the qualifying elderly under Medicare.

However, the only real differences in these programs are that the indigent homeless get Section 8 subsidies while the indigent ill get Medicaid and so on . . . They are all entitlement programs.

Trust me, we spend $2.3 trillion on entitlements annually, and that amount is only increasing unless changes are made.

Welcome to the real world.

• Social Security ($754.1 billion)
• Medicare ($457.8 billion)
• Medicaid ($289.7 billion)

• Other mandated spending programs ($755.2 billion)

o Unemployment and Income Security ($257.7 billion)
o Food and Nutrition Assistance ($ 95.1 billion)
o Housing ($ 57.0 billion)
o Education (mandated) ($148.6 billion)
o Federal Retirement and Disability ($122.3 billion)
(NOT included in Social Security)
o Miscellaneous Mandates ($ 74.5 billion)

Pardon my rage here; but I am tired of carrying this message to every Liberal on OS whose indoctrination is consistently devoid of these facts.

By the way, for your further edification, the federal government collects, IN TOTAL, FROM ALL SOURCES, about $2.2 to 2.5 trillion dollars each year. Does it strike you, as it does me, that federal collections are entirely captured by federal outlays for entitlements?

Did you want us to borrow more money for more inspectors and enforcers of the regulations we now have? Or, did you just want to slap an opposition candidate around a little my smearing him with something he did not mean?

Let me know when you are interested in discussing the big problems.
Yes, and while we're at it, why don't we end the excessive government regulation of food safety so we can have diptheria and typhus epidemics like they had in the good old days?
UncleChri, you are lumping a lot of expenditures into the entitlement category, and I confess I limited the term to the big ones, Social Security and Medicare, programs which the vast majority of Americans pay into and receive payments from. If you wish to include things like education, aid to the needy, payments to disabled/retired vets and gov't employees, that's fine with me. At the risk of being called a liberal or class warrior, I don't have a problem with those programs, and I think our country is better when we provide assistance to the needy, or retirement benefits to federal employees, or block grants to schools.

I am perfectly willing to talk about the big issues, and in fact, I did in my first response to you. Medicare and Social Security are the big entitlements, and I think they can be fixed easily in the way I suggested. Certainly, if we look at those two programs, then the third giant of the budget, defense, should also be addressed. And maybe even tax rates, but some would prefer to default on our debt than include that possibility, so I guess that one's off the table. Heaven forbid we should have to go back to the rates that existed during those terrible 1990's (not to mention the 1950's and 1960's).

As far as Perry is concerned, I don't think I smeared him at all. A moratorium on new regulations would put people at risk. If he did not really mean there should be a moratorium on all new regulations, then he lied when he said there should be. I'm sure Perry would never lie, so I'll take him at his word.

To your question as to whether we should borrow more money to pay for more inspectors and regulators, I say absolutely not. We as a nation have plenty of money to pay for the enforcement of safety laws. We are, after all, still one of the richest nations in the world.
We have safety regulations for the things we use, drive, walk over or under, ride on, buy and eat, often because we found out why they were needed the hard way, first. We can't necessarily trust companies or even individuals to do the right thing by us, if a shortcut is easier and cheaper for them.

Frankly, I like the idea that there are agencies in this nation who can say "you can't do that it's unsafe" and make the rules stick.

Just getting to this now Procopius. Excellent post. The anti-government types would do well to consider how life is like in countries where positive government is barely a presence. But comparisons to other countries apparently flies in the face of American exceptionalism.
You must have found the wrong bear article. Try this one:

So you don't think there are any regulations that the government has come up with that are excessive? I have to not only tell the government everytime I stop to take a piss, I have to graph it. They also tell me how long every day I can work, how many hours I can work in a week, and they even tell me how many hours I have to spend in bed. Do you have to tell the government everytime you have to go to the bathroom?

When people say they want to stop government regulations they don't want to stop them forever. They don't even want to stop the really important ones if something comes up. With the Obama administration wanting to issue thousands of new regurlations this year you have to put the brakes on and say not until you prove they are really needed. A lot of the DOT regulations are regs that will do nothing but increase their power like making farm equipment operators get a CDL. I would geuss if you figured time into it I would have over $10,000 into mine. How is some family farmer going to afford that for everybody who operates equipment?

Yes, Perry wants to scale back some of the things that some of the agencies are doing. The key word here is "some". When you have an agency that wants to tell me how long to be in bed, or you have 20 different people doing the same thing maybe it's time we stop with new regulations until we can get things straightened out, then we can procede with caution.

Regulations that say things like if I'm hauling 40,000 pounds I have to have 40,000 of securement we need. You are right in that some idiot will take a short cut.

I have to go to the bathroom now.
BTW, if I work the hot dog booth at my son's little league, that counts as work. Being an usher at church, work. Doing clean up at a park, work. Being paid or not, it's still work for my total weekly and daily hours.
lefty, we also need to remove all those oppressive rules that prevent salmonella. The free market will sort it all out.

shiral, me too.

Abrawang, comparisons to other countries are fine just as long as we come out on top.

catnlion, I have no doubt that some regulations are excessive. If what you describe is true, then sure, I'd probably agree with you. Fortunately, I have never been subject to one that required me to graph my piss. I frequently work the concession stand at school ball games. I guess I haven't been in the right line of work, because the gov't does not care when I do that.

There are some professions for which I'll admit gratitude that there are rules requiring a minimum amount of sleep.

But every time I hear a politician demonize the EPA or OSHA, especially while the largest oil spill in history was occurring (one that was fatal to 9 workers), just a few years after the deadliest chemical explosion in years, then I must wonder what that politician's real intent is with regard to rules that are meant to save lives.
I'm a truck driver. I don't haul hazmat or anything special. I just drive.
Again, here is what you wrote.

“When a presidential candidate calls for a moratorium on all regulations, like Rick Perry did last week, does that mean going back to a time when bridge collapses like the one that occurred in Dixon, Illinois, were fairly common? Does that mean going back to a time when harbor explosions killed hundreds, or even thousands? Does that mean going back to a time when fatal fires and explosions inside factories occurred every couple of months? Does that mean refusing to monitor or enforce existing laws that have protected the United States from the kind of disasters that still occur regularly in the Third World?”

All of your questions imply that we would either stop enforcing the safety regulations associated with these disasters or repeal them. Do you honestly believe that Mr. Perry meant this when he called for a moratorium on all regulations?

I am certain you know better, because you later wrote in your reply to me:

“As far as Perry is concerned, I don't think I smeared him at all. A moratorium on NEW regulations would put people at risk.”

You smeared him. Admit it.

However, I suspect you know even better than this.

For example, I suspect that you know that every regulation needed to prevent the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007, near Minneapolis, was in place, and enforced, until its failure. In fact, this bridge was declared “structurally deficient” in 1990, 17 years before the disaster, and every year thereafter. In 2005, two years before its collapse, this bridge was given a “sufficiency rating” of 50, placing it in the lowest 4% of bridges deemed to meet "minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as it is."

However, it was never closed before this failure other than for construction work and for accidents. Further, it was not scheduled for replacement until 2020.

This bridge was part of the federal interstate highway system.

I wonder why the federal government, and Minnesota, didn’t have the money between them to better address the problems they knew existed with this bridge?


It's no surprise that you have no problem with entitlement programs. Permit me to remind you that the total of EVERY penny the federal government collects, including those earmarked for the Highway Trust Fund, equals what we spend on entitlements.

We have to borrow every penny we spend beyond that. Since we spend about 3.8 trillion per year at the federal level, we borrow about $0.40 of every dollar spent by the federal government.

You say we are rich country. At the federal level we have a debt that equals our GDP and have been without a budget approved by Congress for nearly 900 days. Rich or not, our federal finances are a disaster.

Every dollar written on behalf of a welfare beneficiary is a dollar not available for apportionment to repairing, restoring, or replacing our infrastructure. It is unclear whether you understand this point.

If you did, then Mr. Perry’s remark about a moratorium on new regulations seems a trivial corollary to the existing fiscal situation at the federal level and a stance with which you seem implicitly in full agreement. Again, you wrote:

“To your question as to whether we should borrow more money to pay for more inspectors and regulators, I say absolutely not.”

Well, from where then is the money needed to enforce the new regulations you wish implemented going to come? Let me guess, higher taxes. . . . ?

I thought so.
UncleChri, yep, higher taxes. And a redirection of the taxes that are currently collected.

Why not higher taxes? In the 1990's, when the federal budget was the closest it has ever been in my lifetime to being in balance, federal taxes amounted to about 20% of GDP. That amount is now about 14%. During the 1990's, the United States GDP grew every year beginning with 1991. And you know what? I think the wealthiest 10% of the nation did pretty well despite those horribly oppressive tax rates. They also did pretty well when the top marginal rates were near 90% during the 50's and '60's, but I'll let Paris Hilton and her friends, and George Steinbrenner's heirs, and the CEO of Citibank (who made $38 million in 2008) off the hook and not make them pay those rates.

You also ask if I understand this: "Every dollar written on behalf of a welfare beneficiary is a dollar not available for apportionment to repairing, restoring, or replacing our infrastructure." Actually, every dollar paid to a welfare recipient will be spent and will become income to merchants and landlords, and will therefore be subject to tax. Beyond that point, however, every dollar spent on an F-22 Raptor is also a dollar not available for our infrastructure. Every dollar spent bombing Baghdad was a dollar not available to our infrastructure. Every dollar eliminated from the income tax of the richest 10% of Americans is a dollar not available for our infrastructure. And every dollar not subject to the payroll tax for people making over $105,000 is a dollar not available to fix the long term deficit on entitlements.

Of course, I know I'm naive, because all those super-wealthy patriots are taking their tax breaks and creating jobs.
Procopious, excellent article.

We definitely need better enforcement of regulations. UncleChri made a perfect point on that. This bridge was listed as deficient for years, yet, not a damn thing was done. It had nothing to do with all the money spent on "Entitlements" and everything to do with not spending money for safety, because it was inconvenient.

It is estimated the nation's coffers would increase enough to cover all this nation's costs when combined with some sensible paring down of certain spending on projects that only benefit a few provided we ensure that our corporate "people" pay the rates of taxation that they deserve to pay, based on the enormous profits they reap at the expense of the consumer citizen.

I know truck drivers have it tough. It's getting tougher. Some of the regulations are really limiting and we need better ways to make a living for truckers. That said, the limits put in place are a direct result of many truckers driving for 16 hours without stopping.

The result? Dead truckers, dead citizens, crashes on the highways, pileups and carnage, waste. The results of the examinations of many of these dead truckers? Use of amphetamines, excessive hours spent on the road, speeding, unsafe driving (due to being tired and drugged) and also lack of maintenance and care of the vehicles they were tasked to drive.

And why? Because the pay a trucker makes is where bridge and road tolls come. The person paying the trucker doesn't have to absorb those costs (as they rightly should) because the trucker, the employed, pays the costs of transit. They drive faster than they should, longer than they should, to make enough money to meet their personal commitments. They do this because those who pay them are not really paying them what they should.

I will say this about the word Entitlement. An Entitlement is something to which you are rightly and justly entitled. That's what Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are. The working people pay for that. It comes right out of our checks. I've been paying into this system since I was 15. I am entitled to my entitlements, damn it, I paid for them.

Somehwere along the way, those who rail against government entitlement programs have managed to convince the masses of workers that somehow only non-working, non-paying members of our society get this entitlement money and that the rest of us are being ripped off. This is simply not the case.

There's a huge difference between being entitled to something for which you paid, versus the sense of entitlement that some develop as a reason to heap scorn upon an entire system based on the rantings of a few, using lies, emotional triggering and hate directed speech.

One of the first and oldest tricks of someone wishing to redirect and derail a sound argument is to attack the speaker or writer's integrity and capability as a 'person of knowledge.' It's disingenuous, but one must come to expect that sort of attitude. It's the most used method of attempting to turn an argument for one thing into an argument against it.

We need safety regulations and those that oppose them are suspect. The suspicion is that someone, somewhere, is proposing to save money by taking those shortcuts mentioned, or avoiding the restrictions and pretending they have not.

We do have government intrusion into our lives that doesn't make sense, I won't say otherwise. However, most of the regulations we do have in place come at the price of many man-made disasters that could have been avoided had people been willing to do the right thing and trade a few percentage points of profit for safety.

And that includes the poor disadvanteged workers who will also take short cuts, overwork themselves and create conditions of danger for others around them, because they feel they have to in order to make a living -- because the person making the real profit is putting the money those people should be paid, into corporate bonus' and overinflated salaries for people that feel they are entitled to all that money.

The biggest entitlement program in this country that we can stand to eliminate are the tax cuts and benefits that corporate "people" currently enjoy at the expense of all others in this country.

“I will say this about the word Entitlement. An Entitlement is something to which you are rightly and justly entitled. That's what Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are. The working people pay for that. It comes right out of our checks. I've been paying into this system since I was 15. I am entitled to my entitlements, damn it, I paid for them.”


Check out Flemming vs Nestor before the USSC.

Here’s a link from Social Security itself:


$800 billion on our military vs $2.3 trillion on entitlements and all you guys can contemplate is cutting defense spending and raising taxes. . . wow. . . .

Let me know, Procopius, the next time you’re hired by a poor man.


Thanks for responding.
I live where I see the results of weak regulations - the coal fields of WV. At a Massey rally in Sept. Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, said: “America’s working families are under attack from several fronts. America’s job providers and American workers must rally together and let our voices be heard, we are proud to provide Central Appalachia with good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced,
and we will continue to fight to make sure they aren’t taxed or regulated out of existence.”
Don wore his American flag shirt and for entertainment that day, they had Shawn Hanity, Ted Nuggent, and Hank Williams Jr. The crowd cheered but many were crying a few months later. Upper Big Branch explosion reminded them of something they forgot.
Those evil regulations Don spoke of were mine safety regulations passed to protect the workers or environmental regulations that were passed to protect our water. The sad thing is that this should have never have happened. We need to be thinkers and not just follow everyone dressed in an American flag!
UncleChri, I'll do that. Be sure to let me know as well when all those job creators who got the tax breaks in 2001 and 2003 start creating those jobs. While you're at it, let me know what all the heirs of billionaires and millionaires who died in 2010 and did not have to pay a single penny into the federal treasury did with all that money they did nothing to earn. Creating jobs, I'm sure.

By the way, during 2010, when there was no inheritance tax at all, the United States collected close to $30,000,000,000 less than it would have if those millionaires and billionaires had died in 2009. Of course, as Bunker Hunt once said, a billion dollars isn't what it used to be. He would know, since he inherited his billions, even though his father's estate was subject to the inheritance tax. Still, that amount is more than a third the entire 2010 budget for the Department of Transportation. Think about that the next time you ride on a crappy, pot hole infested highway or bridge.
Wilma Lee Steele, that is the most pithy comment I've read on OS or anywhere else in a long, long time. It is also heartbreaking.
To UncleChri's point about Flemming v. Nestor, he is absolutely correct. No one is legally "entitled" to Social Security, even though they might have spent a lifetime contributing to the fund. Congress can pass a law tomorrow eliminating Social Security. Flemming v. Nestor give the opponents of Social Security an important tool for the program's termination. As astonishing as that seems to me, there are powerful forces in this nation that want to do just that.

I'm reminded of what a true Republican patriot once said: "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible, and they are stupid."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
I like where you're going with this, but as usual, I'll deposit a fly in the ointment in order to stimulate discussion.

Part of the reason these tragedies occur so infrequently here has to do with regulation. But that is not the whole story.

The Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse of 1940 was more of an engineering issue than a regulatory one. And that's an important factor here. As mankind stretches out to build bigger, better, more substantial structures - sometimes the engineering is bad. Not intentionally, not maliciously. It's just a facet of the development process.

The Hartford Civic Center roof collapse of the 1970s occurred to a building that had pass all the required inspections and was for all intents and purposes in full compliance with all regulatory requirements. Yet it fell in anyway - amazingly at a time when not a single person was inside the building. Whew!

A similar flaw led to the loss of the I-35 Bridge over the Mississippi River. The design was bad. As tragic as that might be, it is often the cause of disasters - simply a flawed design that isn't known to be flawed until after the fact.

The Apollo 1 fire falls into that category, too.

A good case can be made that the reason these things don't happen more frequently these days is that our engineering is better, our materials are superior, and our testing processes are dramatically improved over those used in the early 20th Century.

I'm just saying, there's another way to look at the story - although I really loved the way you wrote this. It was a great kick-off to an excellent discussion.
Jamie, thanks, and of course you're right. I appreciate your input.
Perry is just appeasing the dumbed-down anti-gubbermint types while getting Brownie points from the corporate gang. Extrapolating his words into an examination of beneficial regulations and then questioning his sanity is proper. It doesn't matter if he said "new" regulations, as the lack of specificity displays a careless attitude regardless.

Uncle Chris has his one argument rolling again. You're not special, as he offers the same comment anywhere, even on pet posts.

However, a true statement of the revenues-budget status would zero-out Social Security and Medicare, as they are paid with a specific tax. To include them as deficit spending is dishonest if you know it is, or simple ignorance if you don't. To include them to bolster a weak and oft-re-babbled argument is ignorance on a certain level. But it becomes sheer stupidity when one delivers it with condescension and insult, as if he's educating his lessors.

Closer to honest is we take in around 1.2 trillion in revenue against 2.4 in spending. Of that, defense AND its concomitant expenses are a large percentage. Obviously we need to raise taxes to cover that expense. Jamie's point about how that effects employees of large corps is that it doesn't. Employees generate profit. It would be counterproductive to eliminate profit-generators to pay an added expense. There are other good reasons for raising top end marginal rates and corp taxes.

Finally, Social Security payments are a legal right, therefore a right. Just because one ruling on a specific situation creates a due process denial of payments doesn't negate THE right, just THAT right. There is a constant stream of SS payment qualification judgements moving through lower courts, all about due process denials. How Fleming is special enough to declare the death of a legal right is beyond (okay, I really mean "beneath") me.

There isn't a right you can't be denied through due process.
There are situations where the right of free speech is denied, but only a fool would trumpet that as meaning we have no right to free speech.

It's a lame example, Chris, swimming in an overly verbose alphabet soup of lame argument. If you can't grasp why, at least dial the unjustifiable condescension back a bit and deliver it with the proper humility.
Katrina was in a way a man made accident. But also a stupid engineering one that was so easily avoided. Read on if you have the time.

Since Katrina was mentioned, I would like to educate people on what really happened in New Orleans. Just to point out, I am not just talking ignorantly. I grew up in the unincorporated area west of N.O. called Metairie (pronounced Met uh ree). I played or rode bicycles and motorcycles on several of the levees.

Much of the flooding could have been avoided very simply and at very little expense compared to the national news reports that it would take 20 years and $20B to fix.

So for who may be curious, let me give you a quick guide of the area.
Go to goggle earth and find N.O. From there it is easy enough to see Lake Pontchartrain to the north. Find the Causeway bridge which crosses the lake near its center. Not too hard to spot.

Now the bridge is in he suburb of Metairie. Zoom in enough to see the lakeshore where it meets the bridge. Then pan just a bit to the west. You see a canal (really a ditch) that extends to the lakefront. And you will see structure there that is a “pumping station” as we call them. It serves the dual purpose as a dam and to pump rain water out of the city.
The rain water finds it way from the streets to the ditches via underground pipes. The water is then pumped out. The main point to notice is this ditch has no levee as it needs none. The pumping station is the levee.

Now pan back to the east and go just east of the bridge. You will see another canal, also in Metairie. Also with a pumping station/dam.

Now go east the next canal. It is the infamous 17th Street canal and the border of
Jefferson Parish and N.O. It is the one that got so much air time on national news coverage. When the big helicopter was trying to drop bags of concrete filled from tearing up nearby streets. Not sure you can make it out but I can because I know what it looks like from the ground. But that canal (ditch) has a levee on both sides. It needs (or needed) to because there is no pumping station or dam. That canal is essentially an extension of the lake, gulf and Atlantic Ocean. If you follow the canal south into the city you will see the pumping facility quite a distance in. Any other structures you see now other than the bridge, which is not a dam, were not there. Specifically what looks like a flood gate right at the mouth of the canal now. It was not there. Go further east and you will see other canals in N.O. with essentially the same design.

The canals are like fingers of the ocean into N.O. Their levees have to hold back the very same water that the lake front levee holds back. But the canal levees were and are not nearly as substantial as the lakefront. They are narrow, steep and have concrete walls to extend the height. As one mentioned the concrete walls were not anchored well in the dirt of the levee.

So along comes Katrina. The rain does not flood the city. The next morning the 17th St and levee and others (London Ave I believe is one next on the east path) break.
Despite all efforts it was impossible to stop the ocean from pouring into the city until
the water equalized. The helicopter attempts were useless.

Ok, so what is the point? The point is that the canals in N.O. should have had their pumps/dams at the lakefront. Not in the city connected by a canal. The 17th St. canal and others would not have broken if they were designed like the ones one the suburbs.
The levees were a weak link in the chain. I did no good to have a substantial lake front levee when the lake itself was being channeled into the city via ditches with inadequate levees.

The simple fix. A structure that can now be seen at the mouth of that canal at the lakefront. I think it is just gates but I may be pumps as well. This could have been done so long ago it is ridiculous.

N.O. can flood for many reasons. If the lake or river levees are over topped than all bets are off. But that didn’t happen in Katrina and has not happened in my lifetime. I was stranded as a kid in my grandparent’s home during Betsy. Same reason. Broken canal levee. But it was nowhere near the disaster of Katrina. My farther thought we were in danger being in a Metairie house near the lake. So we went in the city to grandparents. Mistake.

So this is my take on N.O, and Katrina. It was the first time a saw a N.O. disaster as covered by national news. It was so misrepresented. One example: When that helicopter scene was shown over and over dropping bags to plug the hole, one got the impression that behind it was either the lake or ocean, and technically it was. But it was too zoomed in to see that what was behind it was the other side of the ditch. It gave the impression it was directly on the lakefront and that the lakefront levees were that vulnerable.

No doubt this was a case of political BS, but ultimately it was just sheer stupidity. Even as a kid I stood atop the 17th St. levee and wondered why the lake levee was so big and as soon as I turned the corner the canal’s levee was so small. It was all the same water.
Paul, you point on SS, I think , is not valid. If SS had not been robbed by other gov programs, then you point would be valid.
But unfortunately those specific taxes we all paid have been spent on many other things other than SS/Medicare/Disability benefits.
The money is gone. Or should I say "borrowed" by other gov agencies. But the gov cant pay itself back. It can print more fiat money or raise taxes in some form to re fund the program. But what is gone is gone. A T note is a useless asset to the SS fund because it can only be redeemed as I said above.
Soc Sec and Medicare are funded through payroll taxes and do not add to the deficit. The SS surplus is money we borrow from ourselves and, even if it was used to prop-up top marginal tax cuts, it still exists. However, I was not addressing the state of the SS surplus, I was pointing out SS-Med is self-funding and should not be used in an honest, educated and adult assessment of budget deficits. Delusionals are free, of course, to argue it as if it was a point.

My point is valid and you didn't address it anyway.
@paul - SS may be self funding in the sense that there is a specific tax, and and taxed collected every pay period can be used to pay benefits. But self funding does not mean it has not been robbed.
I think you missed the fact that that money has been raided.
Maybe SS can survive month to month on FICA income and retirement outgo, and maybe not. I guess we could change things right now by lowering benefits and/or raising FICA taxes so that a fund is not needed. But I am pretty sure that is not the case now. And would not need to be the case if the fund was not raided. What I a saying is that there certainly has been times that SS was in the black. It did not run on an income = expense basis monthly. It put away money. And certainly there would/could be times it is in the red. Therefore their must be a fund to draw from. In theory there is still money, not just monthly income.
But for all practical purposes there is only monthly income because he fund has been raided. Am I wrong? I hear this on multitudes of media regardless of political leaning.
SS has been in surplus for decades. Even if the collections go down due to high unemployment/bad economy, it's still very much in surplus.
Given Chris' "Grand Enlightenment of the Benighted" is about deficits and affordable spending, declaring the only solvent budget items as the unaffordable cause of deficits is glaringly illogical and dishonest. Delivering his sermon as if he's educating dullards is mildly irritating. The fact he has no real argument to make yet speaks as if it is an argument of supreme intellect and insight instead of trite, unsupportable ideology -- makes it hilarious.

Proc makes a good point when he talks about the value of how dollars are spent. Soc Sec money generates far more return to the economy than defense spending. Stimulus spending has far more bang for the buck than tax cuts. Top end marginal tax cuts produce nothing for the economy, especially at this point.
What more can I say except this post ROCKS!
Alexis, thank you...glad you stopped by!

@ Joseph Cole and Paul J. O'Rourke, thank you for your contributions to my post. I have nothing to add that would contribute positively to what you both have brought to the discussion, so for now I'll keep my big trap shut!
Fact: most folks do not know a lot about business, law or taxation.

Facts: A laser beam points to Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy as the cause of the transition from SURPLUS to borrowing! from China to give ENTITLEMENTS to our nation's wealthiest citizens. Passed through reconciliation, something which if used for HCR those who voted it through would then describe as treason, THIS IS WHY IT HAS A SUNSET!!!! Anyone who wants to talk tax regs and ignore sunsets and their obvious design and purpose must have another actual agenda hidden under a pack of propaganda and other lies- instructive, non?

Auwe (Alas)
I have to object to a blanket term like 'entitlements' -- referring to benefits that were accrued by American workers.

I suppose if you mean simply 'automatic spending' -- that is one thing..

But the implications that a program like Social Security is a welfare scheme is insulting.

Same with Federal retirement system. Veteran benefits.

These aren't some sort of goofy welfare program.
oahusurfer, your right about sunset clauses -- they are a convenient political tool to use against the opposition as the sunset nears.

nick, there seem to be a concerted effort by some to demonize aspects of our society that I once thought sacrosanct: public education, social security, retirement pension plans, etc. are all considered dispensable by a segment of the body politic. As incredible as it seems to me, they seem to think the laissez faire policies that existed in the early 20th century are preferable to having the protections we enjoy today.
Call me old fashioned, but when people EARN benefits by working and paying into a system, they are more than simply entitled to it, they are owed it.

It isn't a welfare payment.

You would never know it to hear people talk.
@paul - again correct me if I am wrong. You say there is s surplus. Where is the money? Is it in accounts in banks around the world?

If you have a $1M under your mattress or even in highly safe investments , then I will say yo have it. If you loaned it to me and all you have is an IOU and I have no means to pay it back, you have nothing.

Gore campaigned on a "lock box" for SS funds. What that not the point. That it is not and has never been locked up for use only to pay SS benefits.

SS may be in surplus on paper. But where is the money? I still believe that a lot of it has been "loaned" t0 the other hand of the gov that has no means of paying it back except through future FICA and/or income taxes. Which means it is gone.
If the SS money is gone, then all money is gone. If all money is gone, how are we paying for things?
There are too many Americans who believe that "small government" is what the USA needs. They do not really understand what that means.
@paul - the simple answer is that we aren't paying for things.
That is why we have a 1.5T budget deficit.
Anyway, read this.

I just did. It confirmed my suspicions. The surplus of 2.6T collected over the years was used to buy special bonds. Special meaning that aint worth a shit, because they cant even be resold to a private buyer. As if anyone would want to anyway.

So I am not sure what you mean by "all the money". What I meant was the 2.6T that should be in a real account but has been spent on the promise of the "full faith and credit" of the U.S. to pay it back.

"full faith and credit" meaning future tax revenues of some sort or monetizing with paper out of thin air. The point is that that 2.6T was supposed to be saved in case the pay-as-you-go comes up short. And it will come up short.
As you said, it was a specific tax. But it was viewed as just part oft he general tax revenue and spent. Somewhere along that way somebody raided it and all the Fund has to show for it is useless special bonds. That money was spent on things in lieu of raising taxes and was a deceit on the people by congress.

You and I probably disagree politically, buy you seem to be a well informed poster. Is anything in this article news to you? The only thing that is substantially new to me are these "special" bonds and the specific numbers. But I was pretty sure there was a surplus that is now nothing but a pile of IOUs.

BTW, there are liberals that will say it never was a specific program for retirement insurance. Some say it was just a tax to be spent in any way the gov. wanted. Apparently the argument is based on the fact that is is called a tax in the legislation. Well that is what has happened. It was used as part of the general tax revenue and spent.
Joseph, the point you just made is the reason I did not say in an earlier comment that our federal budget was in balance in the 1990's. The only reason we appeared to run a surplus, I think, is because social security was used for non-social security purposes in the general fund. I always refer to the '90's as a period when we were close to being balanced, or ran a balanced budget "more or less".
Yes, we all know that. The collections were spent to, basically, relieve the tax burden of the top .001%. The trust fund is a note we owe ourselves. However, to say it isn't there is the same as saying no money is there or will be there, yet we are routinely spending money that "isn't there."
Where we get it when needed, provided the tax isn't raised before then, should be to get it from those whom it was spent with.

Getting back to the original point, it is hyper-dishonest to charge SS with being an unaffordable deficit generator when in fact it has never added a dime to the deficit. If we end a really bad, poorly performing program it should be the biggest contributor to debt and deficits over the last 30 years -- Republican Conservatism.
Why must government be handed a monopoly on oversight of safety standards? That is the most expensive means of oversight to the average citizen, and it's coercive.

I'm certain concerned citizens can voluntarily band together to oversee infrastructure projects are completed safely, or consumer products are assembled to meet safety standards, or food is inspected properly.

Those with a mind to form organizations and collectively run these checks and balances can do so of their own free will, spending their own money without forcing anyone else to do the same via government mandate - or they can opt out and assume the risk that comes with looking for a cheaper (or in this case free) option.
CanadianLibertarian, I am trying to figure out if you're joking or not. If you're not, I can only assume Canadians receive FAR bigger paychecks and work MANY FEWER hours than your cousins in the United States if they can take the time to learn how to perform safety inspections and then actually do them, all the while continuing to perform their regular work duties. I'm sure all those corporations will be eager to implement whatever these citizens groups suggest, too.

The government doesn't have a monopoly on safety.

In fact, most safety standards are at least partially private.

A specific example is the insurance institute for highway safety. They have done a lot, but their work wouldn't have gotten much traction without the government behind it.

A lot of property insurance standards have the effect of de facto government standards.

However, there isn't a market based solution for everything.
"Where is the money? Is it in accounts in banks around the world?

If you have a $1M under your mattress or even in highly safe investments , then I will say yo have it. If you loaned it to me and all you have is an IOU and I have no means to pay it back, you have nothing. "

The fact it is in US Government bonds, denominated in dollars is better than, say, French Euro bonds (which are now AAA),

I guess they could have invested in US residential real estate.

Or perhaps they could have put it in passbook savings accounts. Which are 100% insured by the FDIC. Whoops. Back to the Federal Government.

They could have printed currency and stored that underground. But that currency would be -- US dollars.

Except they can still do exactly that.
UncleChri writes: "Medicaid ($289.7 billion) . . . Pardon my rage here; but I am tired of carrying this message to every Liberal on OS whose indoctrination is consistently devoid of these facts."

Ok, message received. Let's talk about Medicaid. You obviously disagree with the Medicaid program, or at least some part of it. So if it were up to you, what would you do about the Medicaid program? How much would you cut? And would you make any provision for the people dropped from the program? If so, what?

This is what pisses me off about people on the right who gripe about programs such as Medicaid. They denounce the program, but then can't say what's supposed to happen to people when there is no Medicaid program. Or they come up with some kind of goofy idea like "private charity" will pay for everything, but then are unable to say what charity or how the funds would be administered.

So if you have a solution, I'd love to hear it.

Thanks for the reply given the volume of replies you have here.

I'm not advocating that citizens do that kind of work for free, I'm sure many people would pay for their services, but at least that would be voluntary.

And I'm not saying businesses necessarily will adhere to any given recommendations from an organization that makes these assessments on behalf of the consumer - but that's the beauty of the free market; any business that ignores the concerns of their would-be customers does so at the risk of losing out to a competitor willing to provide a safer product.

Well said, even if I disagree.

For instance, "partially private" to me means business and government working in collusion. The customer loses in that scenario. Partially private is not a feature of a free market system. You're either pregnant or you're not.

Nearly everyone is concerned with highway safety, but let people put their money where their mouths are. There's no reason citizens cannot band together to form an Institute for Highway Safety that receives its funding entirely from those who mean to benefit from its research. Cut out the middleman and the costs associated, open the market to competition - for every established private safety institute, a newer, more efficient (i.e. cheaper) option will arrive.

The consumer (in this case, drivers) wins in this scenario as opposed to government provided oversight where the ones doing the overseeing often benefit more financially than most of those they mean to keep safe. That better financial standing coming from a well-paying public sector job created with the idea to keep people safe opens the door to a host of options that most of those supposedly benefiting from that bureaucratic research simply cannot afford - whether it be a greater ability to pay for safer vehicles, less congested toll roads, and/or better real estate options that greatly lessen commute times or provide greater access to mass transit, etc.
The idea that citizens with an interest in regulating safety will want to band together to offer recommendations for regulation is kind of funny. What would happen is the citizens would agree they don't have the time or the expertise, and that it is a mis-allocation of their labor away from more productive ends. Their conclusion would be it's a job for government. The idea that citizens want their lives filled with decisions on every aspect of a functioning society is contrary to actual sentiments and to the mechanics of a functioning society.

You claim a belief in a free market, but quickly decide it's not free enough for citizen participation through government. If it is truly a free market, such actions would never be excluded out of hand, nor liberty limited by your arbitrary declaration of who can't participate.

There is a certain and tragically simplistic logic to libertarianism, but it would be better if it had some connection to reality.
P- c'mon bruddah, the connection is right there and so strong- right to Hobbes natural condition and "natural" state- one where guys like me would make completely sure guys like them's trip through life would be truly nasty, brutish and short. I have yet to see a Libertarian, in more than 50 years, that I thought would come out on top without a social contract totally coddling them for their inherited wealth ... oh, so independent! until exposure to any form of reality rains on the parade ... waaaaah!!!
surfer, the funny thing is that I actually have some very pronounced libertarian tendencies. But they tinged with realism and, I hope, a little compassion for those less fortunate than me.

Thanks for replying.

In an unregulated market place, a business can thrive in the area of public safety; it doesn't have to be individuals inspecting food or working in areas beyond their expertise - the experts can and should make a living doing what they do, away from the purview of government.

Basically, I'm saying it doesn't have to be a government-only proposition; let's open the field to competition and the consumer will benefit from the increases in efficiency.

It's fine to suppose that centralization works because it frees people from caring about things that they might have in generations past, but it's not reasonable to support the idea of eroding the responsibilities of individuals to themselves and to others while at the same time expecting the average citizen to have any idea about how the economy operates, why their cost of living keeps rising, why they can't find a job or any other complex problems that confront people who've allowed their individualism to atrophy in favor of living a more care-free existence.

I advocate a free market because it is the most direct method of recourse; going through a government is an added, and exorbitantly expensive, layer that obfuscates liberty. The government represents us, but it cannot provide a service to any individual as efficiently as an individual can procure for themselves.
There is little motivation for a company to self regulate hazards that don't meet a cost/benefit profitability. We've seen known harmful defects ignored based on that model. Therefore the idea that, if left to their own devices, the regulation would occur is refuted by the facts and a long history of human nature. The idea that "competition" in regulation is possible, much less somehow more efficient and cost effective is pure ideological and unsupportable supposition.

I don't know why you see that as "centralization," a buzzword that describes something else entirely. I'll assume you threw that in to imply some emotional attachment between regulation and socialism, and then I'll disregard it as superfluous.

The degradation of incomes and the economy are exactly because of deregulation and absurd free market interpretations. We know this through recent experience, even if some could draw that conclusion beforehand based on history and logic. There aren't many who would interpret privatized worker/consumer bastardization and abuse as "liberty," but all of them will be libertarians.

You speak of theories as an ideologue does -- as if they are certainties -- but you are severely lacking in real world examples. Slogans are easy. Have you any proof?

It's not up to businesses to regulate themselves, we both know they won't. So what's the solution? I say, let people make their own decisions on what to buy or what to avoid. In cases where the safety of any given product or service is in question, let the layperson pay an expert to weigh in on what's safe and what isn't. This form of payment is voluntary, as opposed to government involvement which forces everyone to pay regardless if they use the service or not.

Individual responsibility on the part of the consumer isn't really all that radical of an idea; we buy "Consumer Reports" magazine or its competitors to read their recommendations on all sorts of products. We pay financial advisers to help us with issues related to banking and finance, we pay experts all the time to help us understand what its in our best interest to know. There are many avenues we can take in addition to just pure word of mouth that help us decide what's safe to consume and what isn't; there's no reason to assume a government bureaucrat will be able to keep us any more safe at a cheaper price to the taxpayer than a company of advisers can do in the private sector.

For proof of the above, think about the profit incentive. No one starts a business if they're uninterested in making money. Any business with an interest in maximizing profits is going to focus its efforts on doing things as cheaply and efficiently as it can in the interest of being competitive; even if that business is consumer advocacy. Meanwhile, the government - funded by taxpayers and/or a currency printing press - has no profit incentive, and therefore no incentive to work as cheaply and efficiently as possible. This is why people tend to dislike bureaucracies, as they don't - as a general rule - tend to work very quickly or cost-effectively toward a beneficial end for the average consumer. Regulating safety is just one example - but that general rule applies to just about everything.

So, I'm saying we need to place more emphasis on contract enforcement and fraud protection through the courts, and allow individuals the same rights the corporations currently enjoy when it comes to issues that effect stakeholders - whether that be environmental ruin, fraud protection, or personal harm.

Right now government and corporate collusion makes it much harder for the individual to hold big business' feet to the fire than it ought to be were our individual liberties better protected by government through the courts instead of by meddling in the economy. So don't mistake what I'm saying as being completely anarchist - I am not saying let's get rid of government entirely, I am saying let's get it out of the economy, and shift its focus toward protecting individual liberty.

The degradation of income you mention has not happened in nominal terms, but has happened through loss of purchasing power. That loss of purchasing power comes as a result of the growth of government that's been funded by steady tax increases and the "printing" of new dollars under the guise of providing economic stimulus.

Deregulation is when you remove government from the role of oversight. Deregulation means cutting, but that has not happened over the last 50 years - it's been the exact opposite. That's not pie-in-the-sky stuff - it's a provable fact that government is much larger, America's public debt is much larger now than it ever has been. The solution to that problem is not to raise taxes, or to grow the size of government even further - the solution is to cut spending, and repeal a lot of the onerous regulation that has caused the climate of mitigated risk that has allowed people to load up on debt while their purchasing power has evaporated.

Thanks to over-regulation there's now a blending of government and corporate power, and it's bleeding the American people dry. The proof of that is all around you.
Rules and regulation are put in place to ensure peace, safety and security. It is unfortunate that strict regulations were in place or strongly enforced which caused all those man-made incidents. Hopefully we won't forget those incidents and never loose focus on implementing guidelines and regulations.