Your Public Freeway: First Class or Coach?

I have to pinch myself lately because it seems the U.S. has been infiltrated by post-Soviet Russian gangsters bent on turning every public good into a private jackpot.

I could talk about public schools, libraries, parks, a litany of places and services that once were available to everyone, but are cut in half now with the barest  minimum available to all and the premium parts open only to those with ability to pay. Today I’ll just focus on public highways.

Carpool lanes were set up to encourage and reward environmentalism, but now it seems, in California at least, they’re to be sold off to those with the most money. The “85 Express lanes” program means that forward thinking people who go through the trouble of arranging a carpool or buying an environmentally-friendly car will now receive no more benefit than a single person driving an Escalade; in fact, carpoolers will be negatively impacted because carpool lanes will quickly become just like any other lane.

Maybe step two will be to take the public taxes that everyone contributed to and create special highways for the rich. After all, it would bring in revenue.

Should we let people with more money have priority use of public parks and libraries and schools?  Why not? It will bring in more revenue. We are truly bankrupt, morally, politically, and intellectually if a “first-class and coach” highway is the best we can come up with in a democracy.

We have better ways of bringing in revenue: taxes, especially higher taxes on luxury cars that wreck the environment and fines proportionate to people’s incomes. Denmark and Finland have those already.

I’m not a poor person myself. I just think we need to reward environmentalism and have one law for everyone, not two laws: one for the rich, one for everyone else.  I want to live in an equal-opportunity democracy, not a Russia-style plutocracy.

I actually feel grief-stricken to see how public life and institutions have been whittled away. It will be immensely harder to recreate these institutions and the land and buildings they stood on after the short-term-thinking opportunists have claimed them for their own. I don’t want my child and other people’s children to face that uphill battle. I want them to have the chance I had—and it was only a chance; it wasn’t equal by any means— but it was far better than what is available to regular working people today.

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