Last week I received an email from a cycling group to which I belong. It was marked “urgent” and its subject line read as follows: “Federal Bike Funding Under Attack Again.” It implored me to contact my elected representatives in Washington and demand that they oppose an amendment introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to the Transportation Enhancements program. Never heard of TE? Well, it’s administered by the Federal Highway Administration and provides funding for the “provision of pedestrian and bicycle facilities,” among other things. The proposed amendment, it seems, would redirect funding from such urgent national priorities to trivialities like infrastructure maintenance. The email cites the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed every year and declares, “We must defeat this amendment.”
As it happens, I know a little something about cycling accidents. I was hit by a car last year and had the uniquely unpleasant experience of bashing out a windshield with my head before flying through the air upside down. This is why my few loyal readers (Hi, Mom) were deprived of my brilliant effusions for about six weeks during the Summer of 2010. However, I was wearing a helmet at the time of my surprise encounter with that wayward automobile, so my brain was not damaged so badly that I actually believe it’s more important to spend taxpayer money on “Watch for Cyclists” signs than on the repair of vital infrastructure. Even when I was taking those delicious painkillers they gave me in the Emergency Room, I was never stoned enough to think that the wallets of my fellow citizens contain a limitless supply of cash.
And, make no mistake about it, that is precisely what our progressive friends believe. They are actually naïve enough to think that we can pay for all the goodies we want simply by raising taxes. Most progressives, including the journalists and politicians who promote their clueless agenda, come from upper middle class environments where everyone is pretty comfortable. They have lived their entire lives around the kind of people who actually commiserated with Barack Obama when he bemoaned the skyrocketing cost of arugula. Few have ever had a close relationship with anyone who does not enjoy a good deal of disposable income. Thus, they believe that raising taxes means nothing more draconian than fewer Gurkhas for some anonymous suit in a gleaming office building downtown.
This is why they so readily believe absurd canards about the Tea Party movement. It is far easier for them to believe the “closet racist” meme than to get their stunted intellects around the notion that there could be a genuine grassroots movement comprised of tapped out taxpayers. For progressives, “authentic” anti-government activists are well-heeled airheads like themselves. The classic example is the erstwhile Weather Underground leader and friend of the President whom Ann Coulter accurately describes thus: “[Bill] Ayers is such an imbecile, we ought to be amazed that he’s teaching at a university — even when you consider that it’s an ed school — except all former violent radicals end up teaching. Roughly 80 percent of former Weathermen are full college professors.”
Obviously, if you have been educated by teachers trained at universities that employ such people, you will be less adept at calculating opportunity cost than defecating in public, waving misspelled signs, and shouting incoherent slogans. Progressives in general, and the OWS demonstrators in particular, are utterly incapable of grasping the blindingly obvious reality that life in a world of finite resources requires us to make trade-offs. Indeed, they don’t understand that taxpayer revenue is a finite resource, even when more than nine percent of the work force remains unemployed. This is why they slander Tea Partiers who want nothing more than a government that controls spending and stops throwing our money away on poorly conceived and counterproductive boondoggles.
Which bring us back to my “urgent” email. Senator Paul describes the Transportation Enhancements program as a fund for “turtle tunnels and squirrel sanctuaries.” He is actually being too kind. In addition to bicycle facilities, TE funds such things as the control and removal of outdoor advertising, reduced vehicle-caused wildlife mortality, habitat connectivity (turtle tunnels), establishment of transportation museums, acquisition of scenic or historic easements, landscaping and scenic beautification and historic highway programs. As much as I love cycling and my fellow cyclists, it’s difficult to imagine a level of cluelessness that could actually advocate funding such things while allowing bridges to crumble. And yet my “urgent” email says TE is a “cost-effective, valuable program.”
Needless to say, none of TE’s “cost-effective, valuable programs” will prevent any of the pedestrian and bicycle fatalities cited in the email. It certainly wouldn’t have prevented my accident, which was caused by a driver who suddenly turned left across two lanes of traffic without bothering to signal. Habitat connectivity wouldn’t have helped. This is not to say that the episode was completely devoid of value. It did give me a sense of what life must be like for progressives. For a few moments after I crash-landed on the asphalt people were standing over me, talking to no effect. Like a lefty listening to Tea Partiers explaining that there isn’t enough money left in their wallets to waste on turtle tunnels, I could see their lips moving but couldn’t hear what they were saying. On the other hand, I wasn’t as comfortable or complacent as a progressive.