Stamp out autoSocialism

My favorite part of the State Of The Union Address (yes, we all had our favorites) was when Trump waved the rhetorical bloody flag and vowed that America would never surrender to the evils of socialism.

“Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” he roared to thunderous applause. “America was founded on liberty and independence – not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.

“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Rousing. Stirring. Inspiring. 

And totally out of touch with reality. 

Shortly before issuing his Declaration of Antisocialist Independence,” Trump climbed into his government-bought limousine and was ferried to government built Capitol Hill via a network of government-funded public streets. 

And he didn’t have to worry about traffic because every single socialistic street in the vicinity of The Hill – Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, Louisiana Avenue – was temporarily closed to the public so His Nibs could get to his gig safely and quickly. 

Not to belabor the obvious, but America has been a socialistic country since the birth of the republic. And the American road system in particular is arguably the most ambitious experiment in socialism in the history of human civilization. 

The same people who keep insisting that mass transit ought to “pay for itself” are oblivious to the fact that in this country we spend upwards of $168 billion a year on public roads. 

Yeah, I know, drivers pay a gas tax for the privilege. But less than a third of the cost of our public roads are covered by gas taxes. The rest of it comes from all of us via property taxes, sales taxes, debt, etc. 

Stuck in traffic? Why doesn’t the government get off its duff and add more lanes to your commuting route? Want to build yet another exclusive gated community way out in the boonies? The Department of Transportation is your Sugar Daddy. 

Good old American socialism created urban sprawl from sea to shining sea. The American automobile industry could not exist without autoAmerican socialism. Privately owned strip malls and subdivisions and office parks feed off the socialistic tit. 

Oh, and those cops and EMTs who clean up the mess after every act of mass destruction on America’s high-speed interstates? Socialists, each one. 

And BTW, it didn’t have to be that way. There was a time in this country when many, even most, roads were privately owned and pay as you go. 

In early US history, many individual citizens would maintain nearby stretches of road and collect a fee from people who used that specific stretch,” we read on Wikipedia “Eventually, companies were formed to build, improve, and maintain a particular section of roadway, and tolls were collected from users to finance the enterprise.”

Clearly, our forbearers didn’t hold with mobility socialism. But we wallow in it. 

The auto-American Dream, the Freedom Of The Road mythology that allows us to climb into oversized pickups and SUVs and put the pedal to the metal was built on a framework of rank socialism. 

But I’m with Trump on this one. I think we need to put a stop to the evils of auto-American Socialism and thus Make America Great Again. If only because our unsustainable freedom of the road obsession must inevitably drive us into national bankruptcy. 

But returning to a patchwork system of privately owned toll roads would be messy and ineffective. No, there’s a better way thanks to good old American enterprise and innovation. 

There was a time when running a toll booth on the Florida Turnpike would get you a ticket. But these days they just bill you in the mail, whether you have a Sunpass on your windshield or not. 

We have the technology to collect a miles-driven tax/charge/fee (call it what you want depending on your personal ideology). It’s the purest user fee imaginable. Whether you drive 10,000 miles a year or just 100 miles a year you would be precisely assessed for the impact your personal automobile use has on the public roadways. 

Right pricing driving gives drivers a financial incentive to do less of it. Car pooling would flourish. More users for mass transit. Telecommuting could set us free. Less wear and tear on the roads. Less congestion. Less demand for ever more travel lanes. Fewer accidents and deaths on the highway. 

And just like that Americans would be free again. 

Yeah, I’m with Trump on this one. Let’s stamp out autoSocialism in the great American tradition.

Author: floridavelocipede

A sometime journalist who used to string words together for a living before I retired to run a non-profit cycle touring organization that will henceforth go unnamed, as I have subsequently retired from that career as well. I write a bi-monthly column, theater reviews and an occasional magazine piece for my old newspaper. If I still had a business card it would read: Ron Cunningham: Trained Observer Of The Human Condition. Because like The Donald, you know, ego.

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