Imagine for a moment that you are the President/CEO of a company. Imagine you are sitting in front of your employees at a staff meeting. You tell them that now is the time for drastic change. You explain to them you have had an epiphany. You have decided to abolish all current pricing structures and revert back to the prices of 1987. Meaningful maintenance of your company’s physical assets is no longer necessary. Investing in the long term sustainability of the organization is no longer a priority. After all, none of that is possible with a 1987 revenue structure.
As outrageous as that may seem, it is the actual financial operating procedure of the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The state agency charged with maintaining and improving the state’s largest asset is currently funded on a 1987 revenue model. This antiquated funding structure would fully explain why we have 416 load restricted bridges, 884 structurally deficient bridges, a third of primary and interstate highways rated as “poor” or “mediocre,” and half of our secondary roads rated as “poor” or “mediocre.” Given the safety and economic development implications of this issue (not to mention the fact that infrastructure improvement and maintenance is a core function of government), you would think South Carolina elected officials would be leading the way in providing viable solutions. Unfortunately, aside from a few bold and visionary leaders, the state’s elected leaders have placed politics first and pragmatism second.
Government bodies are elected to provide certain legitimate services for taxpayers, the majority of which have to do with the “safety and well being” of their fellow citizens. The evolution (or devolution) of the terms “safety and well being” seems recently to be driven by government’s lack of faith in the ability of the average American to make intelligent decisions about their own lives and property, but in the final analysis it is simply a quest for more and more control over behavior.
Every year now it seems that there is a new “issue du jour” that must be acted upon by some governing body to protect citizens from themselves. It is as if the general public is wandering through life like the “walking dead”, unable to make their own decisions. Education is useless. Persuasion is needed. Or so it seems to many elected officials.