By John Latta
I once wrote an editorial about fairy tales for one of the company’s trucking magazines. Basically I edited them by adding some original material to well-loved old stories. I was actually trying to make an important point across. Maybe I did, maybe not. But the idea is worth revisiting now.
The central idea was that while the trucking industry was trying to convince Washington to make some essential moves, politicians were reluctant to do what was needed because it might upset voters. One way to look at this is to assume that voters did not know enough about the trucking industry to understand and accept essential changes that on the surface seemed a bit harsh. Think in our case about raising the fuel tax. So how could we educate voters on the need to put money into our crumbling infrastructure before it’s too late? As we know, not much is really effective in a hurry.
One answer for the future is a long-term strategy that educates our children so that by the time they are voters they will have a very good understanding of the highway and bridge industry and be well aware of its needs. If we’d done this 50 years ago when the interstate system started, maybe we’d have an adequate, indexed fuel tax working for us today.
This is where the fairy tales come in. For example:
When B.B. Wolf makes it to the brick house we add a little to the story, something to the effect that the bricks weren’t just laying around, they came on a truck via efficient county highways. Goldilocks not only has a variety of cereal offerings she has three different sized beds to choose from. So we add to the tale the story of how the beds came from a factory far away to the town’s bed store along a state highway. And Cinderella – yeah, right glass slippers are an everyday item. No, they were hand-made Italian, shipped in from a port, through some intermodal facilities then down the Interstate. No good bridges and roads, no story.
The more future voters know about America’s infrastructure, the easier it will be to maintain the Highway Trust Fund (if it’s still around). Better the next generation understands what must be done – and why – when the industry realizes we must increase the fuel tax or user fees and politicians hell-bent on reelection still won’t have the necessary courage.
A bit over the top? Maybe. But imagine if today’s voters knew what we know about our highways and bridges and what must be done. Imagine if infrastructure was valued highly by future generations.v