America's failing infrastructure is in plain sight
Roads and bridges are a basic responsibility of the government - even most libertarians would agree with that. Yet the pothole plague shows no signs of abating.
Nationwide, America's infrastructure received an overall D-plus grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The nation's bridges, with an average of 42 years and one in nine of which is structurally deficient, fared much better, earning a C-plus.
Part of the problem is congressional unwillingness to invest in infrastructure, even though infrastructure spending more than pays for itself by stimulating demand and making transportation easier and more efficient for millions.
National highways are in great need of service, with the Federal Highway Administration estimating that $170 billion is needed to significantly improve conditions. Part of the reason is a depletion of the Highway Trust Fund, which will take in $33 billion and spend $45 billion this fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Receipts, funded by the federal gas tax, have been reduced due to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Lawmakers are dawdling on an alternate source of funding, but unless a solution materializes soon, states will have to halt all new construction projects indefinitely. The easy one, raising the gas tax for the first time since 1993, has been stoutly opposed by Republicans for years.
All this is not lost on ordinary Americans: A recent poll found that three in five are worried about the unsafe conditions of their roads and highways. If only three in five lawmakers were as well.
Dead to reason: Las Vegas killings are American fanaticism at work
Jerad and Amanda Miller, the young married couple who killed two police officers at a Nevada pizzeria and a customer at a nearby Wal-Mart recently, were disturbed even by the standards of the American militia movement. When they were cornered by the police, the Millers took their own lives rather than answer to a criminal justice system and state authority they considered illegitimate.
The Millers' descent into homicidal anarchy was predictable given the heat of their rhetoric. They weren't shy about naming the things they hated: the federal government, people of other races, anyone who disagreed with their interpretation of the world.
Radio host Alex Jones was their spiritual guide into a universe where paranoid fever dreams and conspiracies are real. Jones has since called the Millers' rampage a "false flag" operation staged by the government. There are other paranoid listeners who no doubt believe it.
The Millers were early supporters of deadbeat cattle rancher Cliven Bundy's protest against the government. Jerad Miller was interviewed by TV reporters during the confrontation between the rancher and the government last month. Even then, he was itching for a fight that he believed would be apocalyptic.
It is a testament to how over-the-top Jerad Miller was that the Bundy family allegedly banished him and his wife from the ranch because they were "too radical." How radical could they have been on a ranch full of armed government protesters ready to fight local and federal law enforcement officials to the death?
The fringes of the American radical right-wing are full of characters like Jerad and Amanda Miller, two deeply cynical and ignorant gun fetishists who believed the government exists only to enslave them and confiscate the guns and property of every free American.
The couple shouted to terrified Wal-Mart shoppers that they were harbingers of a revolution. They were flattering themselves. The only revolution they might herald is a revolution by ordinary Americans determined to defy the National Rifle Association and keep guns out of the hands of people like the Millers in the future.