A friend of mine is a New Hampshire “selectman”, one of those municipal offices Tocqueville found so admirable. In 2003, a state highway inspector rode through town and condemned one of the bridges, on a dirt road that serves maybe a dozen houses.
That’s the bad news. The good news was the 80/20 state/town funding plan, under which, if you applied to Concord for a new bridge, the state would pay 80 per cent of the cost, the town 20. So they did. The state estimated the cost at $320,000, so the town’s share would be $64,000. Great. So the town threw up a temporary bridge just down river from the condemned one, and waited for the state to get going. Six years later, the temporary bridge had worn out, and the latest revised estimate was $655,000, such that the town’s share would be $131,000.
That’s the bad news. The good news was that, under the “stimulus” bill, they could put in for the 60/40 federal/state bridge funding plan, under which the feds pay 60 per cent, and the state pays 40, and thus the town would be on the hook for 20 per cent of the 40 per cent, if you follow. If they applied for the program now, the bridge might be built by, oh, 2018, 2020, and it’ll only be $1.2 million, or $4 million, or $12 million, or whatever the estimate’ll be by then.
But who knows? By 2018, there might be some 70/30 UN/federal bridge plan, under which the UN pays 70 per cent, and the feds pay 30, and thus the town would only be liable for 20 per cent of the state’s 40 per cent of the feds’ 30 percent. And the estimate for the bridge will be a mere $2.7 billion.
While the Select Board was pondering this, another bridge was condemned. The state’s estimate was $415,000, and, given that the previous bridge had been on the to-do list for six years, they weren’t ready to pencil this second one in on the schedule just yet. So instead the town put in a new bridge from a local contractor. Cost: $30,000. Don’t worry; it’s all up to code—and a lot safer than the worn-out temporary bridge still waiting for the 80/20/60/40/70/30 deal to kick in. As my friend said at the meeting:
’Screw the state. Let’s do it ourselves.’
Contemporary American liberalism can’t build bridges. Its language is now so divorced from action that it thinks “bridge-building” is a term of outreach: Barack Obama is building bridges to the Muslim world, or the transgendered community or whatever. Big Government builds metaphorical bridges, and that’s it.