August 3, 2007

Not A Lack Of Funds, Part II

People have made a lot of assumptions in the wake of the bridge collapse here in Minneapolis. Without waiting to find out the actual cause of the collapse, politicians and pundits have assumed that governments on state and federal levels failed to properly fund infrastructure maintenance. One of the memes that has popped up has been that the war in Iraq has somehow drained funds from these responsibilities, offered in this instance by our freshman Senator, Amy Klobuchar:

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, suggested Bush administration spending on the Iraq war may have crimped funding for domestic projects such as road and bridge construction, and for such infrastructure projects as new levees for New Orleans.

"We've spent $500 billion (250 billion pounds) in Iraq and we have bridges falling down in this country," Klobuchar told MSNBC. "I see a connection between messed-up priorities."

Someone had "messed-up priorities" by exploiting this tragedy for her anti-war policies, certainly. Power Line punctures this meme and Klobuchar's idiocy by actually doing a little research. It turns out that the Bush administration and Congress increased federal highway aid to Minnesota by 46% in 2005, for the four-year period through 2009:

U.S. President George Bush signed a $286.4 billion six-year transportation reauthorization bill Aug. 10, 2005 that covers federal fiscal years 2004-09.

Although the details of the reauthorization package are still being reviewed, Minnesota state and local governments can expect to receive about $3.5 billion in federal transportation funding through 2009, an increase of about 46 percent (or about $1.1 billion) over the previous six-year bill.

So where did this increase in funding go? 79% went to highway programs, the exact function that would have included maintenance of the I-35W span that collapsed. Had MnDOT wanted to repair or even replace that bridge, the federal funding given to them would easily have covered the cost. They could have built almost three of them with just the increase over the previous six-year funding that originated from the Clinton administration.

The funding for defense has not impacted the federal spending on highway infrastructure. One can argue whether we should increase it further, but we haven't cut the funding in the last few years. The cause of the bridge collapse was not a mythical funding cut or the Iraq war. Politicians and pundits should wait for the actual cause of the collapse before coming up with solutions, and they should focus those solutions on the problem at hand.


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Comments (43)

Posted by TitanTrader | August 3, 2007 7:43 PM

Ed, their is not going to be any waiting. State Senator Murphy is on Almanac as we speak talking about a hugh new tax increase and a special session. Right before him was Rep Oberstar talking about a new federal gas tax.

Posted by RBMN | August 3, 2007 7:51 PM

It's still a little early for politicians to be pointing fingers. For all we know at this point, some unobservable uninspectable one-in-a-million flaw in the bridge’s foundation is what started the chain reaction of structural failure, and not the steel corrosion per se. Rivers do strange things behind the scenes too.

Posted by patrick neid | August 3, 2007 8:11 PM

"U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, suggested Bush administration spending on the Iraq war may have crimped funding for domestic projects such as road and bridge construction, and for such infrastructure projects as new levees for New Orleans. "

she's an idiot and she's all yours capt.

this accident has now officially turned into a cnn/larry king episode. in reality all it is, is an accident. accidents happen. i wish they didn't because listening to the BS that comes with them is too much.

Posted by MarkJ | August 3, 2007 8:23 PM

Sorry if I'm so obvious, but this whole sad affair is now seeming viewed as a kind of "Reichstag Fire" by the usual tax-and-spend suspects.

Typical Democrats: at least vultures have the common courtesy to leave a respectful interval before descending upon corpses and using them for their own ends.

Posted by Kelly | August 3, 2007 8:43 PM

Sheesh. Amy Klobuchar stays true to her mantra - whatever the problem is could have/would have/will be solved with more tax money thrown at it. And of course, it is all the fault of those conservative/republican/congressmen/president who didn't give enough money or who cut funds or who are spending money on things that aren't her favorite cause of the moment.

*sigh* The Democrats can't even wait until all the bodies are found to find some excuse to relate this to their antiwar stance.

As though the 35W bridge would be the next thing on the "to-do list" if it wasn't for that "damned war in Iraq." *GRUMBLE*

Posted by Bennett | August 3, 2007 9:20 PM

The Senator's statement only makes sense if the bridge was known to be in danger of failing. This does not seem to be the case as the bridge has passed recent inspections. If the defects that lead to the collapse were not discoverable, I'm not sure how more money would have helped unless the idea is that we're going to build new bridges every few years just in case. And if the defects were discoverable, this means incompetent people are in charge of the inspections. If that's the case, I'm not sure giving those same people more money is going to help.

Posted by Monkei | August 3, 2007 9:21 PM

The GOP war is not the issue here ... this is just hogwash by Amy ... the real problem has been ongoing for decades ... we all are a bunch of lazy ass fat cats who (1) don't want to pay higher taxes for infrastructure improvements and (2) we don't want bridges and roads tore up that will make us go 20 miles out of the way and 1/2 an hour extra added onto our daily commutes.

This is not a problem of elected dems or repugs ... this is a problem of each of us every morning who only think about ourselves.

Posted by TW | August 3, 2007 9:23 PM

The first question on the first exam of the first ever economics course I'd ever taken was:

What is the basic economic problem facing mankind?

Sheesh, and I'd tried to figure out the calculus of utility curves. The answer - that there is unlimited demand for limited resources will always be true. All we can do is allocate resources to maximize that fuzzy utility thingy. So, in broad terms it does sometimes come back to - guns or butter? (Or as Eddie Izzard might say - cake or death?)

A better analysis might look at the 'culture' of the public works department in charge of the bridge. If they've recently been experimenting with using a business model, like a lot of agencies have, then there may have been incentives to hold spending down. If a bridge replacement is a budget buster that would wipe out bonuses, there's an inherent conflict.

Posted by Aaron | August 3, 2007 9:28 PM

Looking at that bridge again - that thing looked like a thin crust of asphalt spread over two very flimsy looking support trusses. Civil engineering is supposed to use safety factors in the 100s range, and that thing looked like it was designed to just barely take the weight requirement as a static load. That's my bet as to why the bridge collapsed.

Look at the standing bridge next to it! It has support columns and concrete to reinforce it for pete's sake!

Posted by patrick neid | August 3, 2007 9:45 PM

"The Senator's statement only makes sense if the bridge was known to be in danger of failing."

excuse me but her statement will never make sense. she's an idiot and her statement at a time like this proves. stop making excuses for pathetic people making stupid comments. actually i don't know who is dumber, her or the people who elected her.

here's another bullshit statement:

"we all are a bunch of lazy ass fat cats who (1) don't want to pay higher taxes for infrastructure improvements "

we have passed enough highway bill money over the last 40 years to rebuild every road and bridge several times over. the politicians favorite nest egg is highway money spent on pet projects. in a related example, the twin cities were so concerned about their bridges they raised public money to build a new stadium for the twins--which they halted today because the bridge fell down.

let's not even talk about the levies in new orleans and where all that money went over the years. we don't need more taxes we need politicians without shit for brains and a voting public that can sign in with more than an X.......

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 3, 2007 9:52 PM

Monkei said:

"The GOP war is not the issue here ... "

LOL, you mean the same "GOP war" that Hillary and Kerry and a bunch of other Democrats voted in favor of, solely for political reasons? Too funny.

Remember, Hillary claimed at the time that she had also relied on Bubba's intel people before she voted, and they all said "Chimpy" was right...

"This is not a problem of elected dems or repugs ..."

At least call them "Repubs". Calling them "pugs" shows you can't be taken seriously. Why don't you call them "neocons" while you're at it?

Besides, last time I checked, a "pug" was a ferocious fighting canine...just like a "chickenhawk" is a ferocious predatory bird that absolutely tears the birds it hunts and kills to pieces.

You jokers need to find a new dictionary. But since over 80 percent of high school dropouts voted for Al Gore in the 2000 election, I'm not holding out any hope.

Posted by filistro | August 3, 2007 9:53 PM

It's all karma, isn't it?

A few years ago the failure of the eastern power grid, the steam pipe blowing up in New York or the bridge collapse in Minnesota would have been seen simply as accidents and gone largely unnoticed outside their own states.

Now, due to the diligent efforts of neocons to keep everyone in a constant state of frenzied terror, people really freak out when these things happen, and they become huge national news events.

Because infrastructure accidents are getting so much attention, '08 candidates are going to be dealing all the time with infrastructure questions. And people are going to bring up (validly or not) issues about the cost of the Iraq war and how many bridges, power grids, water treatement plants and swanky new hospitals could be built at home with All That Money.

Posted by daytrader | August 3, 2007 9:55 PM


Where was her "earmark" for this bridge?

Doesn't she talk to Murtha?

Lets have full disclosure of what earmarks she actually got.

That will tell an interesting tale of priorities I bet.

Posted by daytrader | August 3, 2007 9:59 PM

The dems are becoming the Fred Phelps party, they will desecrate any grave to get their message across.

A pox on them.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 3, 2007 10:03 PM

filistro said:


Is that you, Greg Palast? LOL

FYI, that "eastern power grid failure" was traced back to the Midwest. Please do your homework. Of course, Palast claimed within hours of the blackout that it originated with a power utility he hated in New York...

Posted by mvargus | August 3, 2007 10:05 PM

Someone on another site pointed out that maintainence isn't "sexy" and that is the problem we've had regarding highway repairs for more than 20 years. The money is "there", but it gets diverted to other spending (vote buying) purposes and the bridges and roads suffer.

And the very blatant attempts to win partisan points over this disappoints me.

Posted by filistro | August 3, 2007 10:22 PM

Hey Del.

Go to Wikipedia.

Look up Leo Strauss.

(Do you think we just make this stuff up?)

Posted by RBMN | August 3, 2007 10:53 PM

Carol Molnau, Minnesota's current Lieutenant Governor, and Commissioner of Transportation (two jobs) said today that her own daughter crossed that bridge twice every weekday. If her engineers were uneasy about its safety, they certainly didn't communicate it to her. I think the experts just kept missing something that was important--not ignoring something that was important.

Posted by Scrapiron | August 3, 2007 10:58 PM

Time to investigate the democrats that are screaming and blaming others to see how many millions of the Highway dollars made it's way to their and their families bank accounts. At least 50% has been bled off by criminal politicians, 99% by dhimmi's. Reid, Murtha, Boxer and Feinstein are only a few of the known criminals in congress bleeding tax money to their family members.

Posted by docjim505 | August 3, 2007 11:28 PM

Are we to assume that, were we not at war in Iraq, the Congress would have spent the money wisely???

Posted by docjim505 | August 3, 2007 11:32 PM

Oh, and filistro, save the "phoney terror warnings have got us all on edge" crap. The only people wringing their hands about this accident are liberals with an axe to grind and the media that makes "huge national news events" out of such tripe as a spoiled, drugged-up heiress going to jail for drunk driving.

Posted by jfm | August 3, 2007 11:47 PM

Please remember that Amy K only became Senator after the 2006 election.

I think it's asking way too much to expect her to know something about a highway funding bill that passed in 2005.

Posted by Fight4TheRight | August 4, 2007 12:35 AM

Has Amy Klobuchar had an original thought in her life?

Posted by brooklyn | August 4, 2007 12:46 AM

The Democrat Partisans continue to create new lows.

It is sickening...

Complete deceit, slander, manipulation...

They will say anything, no matter the consequences for the future to further themselves.

We must rebuke this garbage.

The unethical fixing of votes in the House is just another sign of this ugly agenda.

And the latest, Hillary and Kerry have offered their 'retreat' plans for Iraq.

How truly pathetic...

The modern Democrat Party is an embarrassment.

Simply pathetic.

Posted by RogersUmp | August 4, 2007 4:20 AM

Remember, light rail has sucked up a lot of transportation dollars that could have been spent on our infrastructure. However, this bridge would have still collapsed, even if we were spending more on roads and bridges.

Posted by Robin Goodfellow | August 4, 2007 4:20 AM

Between federal and local government spending we've spent more than 590 billion dollars on highways in the time span of the Iraq war.

It's not for lack of funds that this bridge fell.

Posted by ajacksonian | August 4, 2007 6:18 AM

And let us not forget the 2005 Pork Filled Transportation Bill with a mere $12 billion in pork projects out of a $286 billion funding authorization. Seems that $12 billion could have done a lot of work on inspecting bridges used for interstates, which fall under the Federal purview. Instead we got lovely bike paths, gardens, turn lanes, bike lanes and all sorts of other pork goodies for the Incumbistanian Party.

It is Congress that puts together the spending packages for the Federal government. Apparently someone got their priorities mixed up between funding for necessary infrastructure and funding for lobbyists.... Remember when you say 'Federal spending outlays' you are really saying 'Congress'.

Not that anyone will ever hold Congress accountable for pork spending when interstate bridges collapse.....

Posted by Monkei | August 4, 2007 6:29 AM

Hey Pineapple, you took the time to get your "this is not a GOP war in and your time to mention that anyone who calls them dems and repugs can't be taken seriously, but you never mentioned anything regarding the basic post ... typical for a basher like you who only goes through this board to bash other posters who don't agree with you ... that's all you ever will be ... get back to me if you ever have anything relevant to say.

Posted by Monkei | August 4, 2007 6:37 AM

Has Amy Klobuchar had an original thought in her life?

probably not, she is the Del Dolemonte of the Senate. just another windbag full of talking points and lockstep with her or his party, right or wrong

Posted by quickjustice | August 4, 2007 7:14 AM

First, my sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of this tragedy. Minnesotans are strong people, and they will overcome this.

There's a more basic policy point here. As entitlement spending has exploded, it has crowded out infrastructure spending. That's more true in blue states than in red states, but at some point, we must step back and consider the trade-off.

Our infrastructure is aging, and in N.Y., we are falling dramatically behind, largely because of the demand for entitlements. We're already maxed out on taxes, so there's no where else to go for more money. As our infrastructure falls into disrepair, it becomes a drag on our economy.

Just another way the welfare state destroys the U.S. economy.

Posted by Keemo | August 4, 2007 7:27 AM

Jeeez; I feel bad for those who lost their loved ones in this accident. Accidents do happen & humans are not perfect at anything we do.

The real sickening dynamic to this story is our politicians blaming this accident on political reasons & causes. This group of politicians is incompetent beyond comprehension; these fools don't seem to realize that we pay them to solve problems, create solutions...

Message to all politicians: Get into the solution rather than living in the problem... The blame game is useless; raising taxes is not the solution. Management of appropriated funds takes time and focused attention; hard to apply these standards when these fools are spending days (weeks & months) blaming each other for anything and everything. Do we need to group our politicians in "dyad" position, facing each other until solutions have been reached, establishing a timetable for 6-year old behavior to end and grown-up behavior to begin?

Neocon War; you brought on the negative comments with this silly claim monkei... America is at War; even the Euro's are admitting this reality. How and why we got there is long over; winning the damn war is paramount to our future.

Posted by Charles | August 4, 2007 7:38 AM

Anybody else find it ironic that, after a bridge that just passed multiple inspections failed unexpectedly, and nobody knows why, the governor's response is to order all the other bridges in that category to be inspected?

Why does he think inspections are going to turn up anything when they didn't turn up anything before? Isn't this just a waste of taxpayer's money?

I understand the desire to do something, but this is just flailing.

Posted by John_Gault | August 4, 2007 7:46 AM

The Dem's reasoning for the root cause of any problem is that we haven't spent enough money on it.

Posted by Continuum | August 4, 2007 9:06 AM

And, the Republican's reasoning is to imitate Alfred E Newman's "What Me Worry?"

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 4, 2007 9:18 AM

filistro said:

"Hey Del.

Go to Wikipedia.

Look up Leo Strauss.

(Do you think we just make this stuff up?)"

LOL! Even Wiki's own founder, Jimmy Wales, says it shouldn't be relied upon as a reference source. Because they have been busted for (surpprise, surprise!) making stuff up.

Next question?

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 4, 2007 9:30 AM

monkei said:

"Hey Pineapple, you took the time to get your "this is not a GOP war in and your time to mention that anyone who calls them dems and repugs can't be taken seriously, but you never mentioned anything regarding the basic post ... typical for a basher like you who only goes through this board to bash other posters who don't agree with you ... that's all you ever will be ... get back to me if you ever have anything relevant to say."

I wasn't the one who brought up the "GOP war" in Iraq in his very first sentence. You did.

Posted by filistro | August 4, 2007 9:35 AM

Del, I'm really struggling to understand you.

Are you saying you don't think Leo Strauss existed? You are actually unaware that neoconservatism is a legitimate political movement with a well-documented history?

Speaking, myself, as a proud paleoconservative ... I think you must be an extremely young person. There's just no other charitable explanation.

Posted by FedUp | August 4, 2007 2:45 PM

I'm just surprised that Amy didn't blame global warming on this... what a wasted opportunity... That has about as much credibility as the other bs that is being spouted here...

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 4, 2007 3:16 PM

filistro said:

"You are actually unaware that neoconservatism is a legitimate political movement with a well-documented history? "

I am perfectly aware of it. I'm just sick and tired of the term being tossed about by the leftists like yourself as an "insult". It's so 9-10.

Just curious-how old are YOU?

Posted by Ray | August 4, 2007 6:00 PM

People keep raising the funding flag here but there is simply no way to determine if more funding, or less, would have prevented the collapse until the actual cause of the failure is known.

Since the bridge was under repair when it collapsed, there is a very real possibility that the failure occurred because a contractor removed a vital piece of support structure without proper bracing. If this were the case, one could make a valid argument of how funding attributed to the collapse. If the funding hadn't been approved, the maintenance wouldn't have been performed and the bridge would still be standing.

Of course, we don't know what actual caused the bridge to collapse so this is just like all other "explanations" I have seen; purely speculation.

Posted by Conrad Wareham | August 5, 2007 3:59 AM

Hasn't anyone took the time to look at the many pictures available on the internet and make their own judgement about the condition of the bridge? It is obvious that it has suffered from a lack of maintenance! I am in the business of maintenance and I see this all the time. We have a culture of managers that think you can just build something and the maintenance is not important. Duh! We have a big problem across the country with a lack of maintenance on much of our infrastruture that is now coming home to roost - we are in serious trouble if we do not make maintenance of our infrastucture a No.1 priority. I am certain that if the I-35W bridge would have had proper preventive maintenance it would still be standing. So why didn't it get the maintenance? It looks like it was the incompetence of several administrations including the present one. This is also a political issue because department heads in the public sector are appointed by the administration in charge. But public safety should not be subverted by political agendas and that is where leadership and competence needs to be demonstrated by the administration at the helm. It seems that this has not been the case in Minnesota or elsewhere for that matter. This is an interesting phenomenon I have been observing for a few years now, business administrators and managers with no experience or understanding that the foundation of our society is mechanical, and that this mechanical foundation in water, power, highways and bridges, and waste water needs to be maintained. When these systems break down commerce comes to a halt. And from my observations over the years of watching our national infrastructure coming to it's maturity, we better have a plan to invest in building new infrastructure to replace this aging one. Because if we don't we can be prepared to sink into a third world country. This is no joke. We have to get past our political differences and chose leaders with a vision for our country and the leadership skills to bring us together. Remember the slogan "United we Stand, divided we fall?" We are a divided nation right now. An added point: Regardless of what our opinion is about this war we are in, we need to put our opinoins aside until it is over and win it. We cannot afford to lose this war - we have too much at stake - like the value and prominance of the dollar?

Posted by docjim505 | August 5, 2007 7:04 AM

Conrad Wareham,

Your points are all excellent, but the sad facts are that:

1. We're not electing very smart people to public office these days;

2. Politicians believe that expanding entitlements and pork barrel gets them elected / reelected. I mean, how "sexy" is to to make a campaign speech about how much money you got allocated for bridge and road repair?

3. Politicians in general and legislators in particular can always find somebody else to blame for their screw-ups. "Why, nobody told ME that the bridge was unsafe!"

Posted by Keemo | August 5, 2007 8:54 AM

Posted by: Conrad Wareham at August 5, 2007 3:59 AM

Very well stated Conrad...

We have been fed a steady diet of "bullshit" for so many years now, that we have lost our way. It really comes down to the people; we must come together and demand much better from our elected leaders; from our free press; from our media...

A real good starting place would be to demand "facts; the truth" from all of these institutions. Punish those who lie and spin the facts. We must have a starting place, and it would also be helpful if a true leader would emerge; one who will feed us a steady diet of the facts; one who actually believes in human character & is guided by principle.

One things for sure, Hillary Clinton has been described by all who know her as a person that "if her lips are moving, she is lying"; a person that will say & do anything to get her way. If we elect her into office, this will be a sure sign that we "the people" are a long ways off from reaching the point of solution.

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