Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Current Highway Project & A Bridge War With Texas

Gov. Alfalfa Murray leads a militia to war, over a bridge on the Texas border
The Red River Bridge War and Our Current Transportation Battles

  Senator Jim Inhofe is, as I write, on the floor of the U.S. Senate to pitch his overhaul plan for the federal highway system. He just cited the U.S. Constitution and implied the fundamental role of congress in this area.
  Let's talk about the federal role...
  The preamble of the constitution establishes original intent for the 1789 (2nd) U.S. Constitution:
"...in Order to

  •  form a more perfect Union, 
  • establish Justice, 
  • insure domestic Tranquility,
  •  provide for the common defence, 
  • promote the general Welfare, and 
  • secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, 
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
  So what does a federal arterial design have to do with the 6 goals listed above? Well, we can set aside the first point because it's so ambiguous that almost any frivolous idea can be pitched using that stretched reasoning. I don't think the federal govt. needs a national road system in order to provide essential justice. Domestic tranquility might be a valid point, especially if you know Oklahoma history
  Back in the 1930s, Oklahoma Governor, Bill "Alfalfa" Murray led Oklahoma troops into war against Texas. It was a standoff known as the "Red River Bridge War". And it was all about interstate road travel.
  Interstate travel, and by extension - interstate commerce, is about basic passage of people and goods from one state to another. And where there is a river, then a bridge or ferry is essential. Down in Durant, OK; a private venture provided a toll bridge, but the growing states both insisted on a better system. A compact was signed which built a new bridge and Texas was to pay the toll bridge company a buy-out compensation. But when the road first opened, the Texas' legislature refused to appropriate funds to the toll bridge company. So the Texas Governor, Ross Sterling, ordered the bridge closed until the full compact was honored. Then Texas Rangers moved in and manned the bridge, to keep it closed until his legislature honored the compact.
  In the height of tensions, Murray declared martial law, strapped on his revolver, and lead a march of the Oklahoma Militia to occupy the full bridge by use of military force. He asserted Oklahoma's claim to all of the territory under the bridge, by citing the Louisiana Purchase(1803), describing the border (which was at the time an international border between the USA and the foreign territory of New Spain).
  No blood was shed, only because Texas relented and the federal courts confirmed that Oklahoma owned everything up to the hard outer banks on the south side of the Red River. But the experience highlighted the difficulty in providing safe passage to all citizens, to travel throughout the republic's states. Any state can close any road right at the border, or even tear down a road or bridge, thereby wasting the infrastructure investments of an abutting state.
The arterial Highway system of the U.S. mainland
  So the federal government commissioned the U.S. Routes. They worked about as well as the railroads, to move people and goods across the republic. But they were co-opted by city ordinances, stoplights, cattle crossings, city parades, street dances, and other countless factors.
  This brings us back to the preamble of the U.S. Constitution; to pick up where we left off. A common defense is one of the most essential reasons for the 1789 second U.S. constitution. Moving troops and armaments around the nation is a key objective to implementing a common defense.
 When President Eisenhower entered the executive role, he had successfully completed the largest military operation in the world's modern history. In his effort to liberate Europe the most difficult part was getting manpower and supplies to where they need to be, before more people die. His administration designed our modern interstate system with national defense as a primary intention. Commercial and private travel is also a beneficiary(just as GPS satellite tracking is primarily designed by and for our military), but the military specs of the interstate system remains intact.  Even in the American mountain ranges and swamplands, one mile of highway in every five of interstate roads is mandated to be straight, level, and capable of facilitating an emergency landing of a military aircraft. In 1955, it took twice as much time to move a convoy of jeeps and trucks from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. Now they arrive the same day in which they depart.
  So, there is some justification in the constitution to grant a federal role in arterial highway planning, as a common defense objective.
The next point of the preamble says; "promote the general welfare". Liberals want you to change that message to "provide a general welfare". That is a subtle and dangerous perversion. In this area, many of us conservatives agree with Ronald Reagan, that  the best way to accomplish general welfare is for the federal government to GET OUT OF THE WAY!. So highways are not a legitimate welfare operation in the liberal bureaucracy sense, but if the feds can facilitate the same interstate compacts that Oklahoma and Texas tried to do, then perhaps they can be that promoter which the republic needs, at times.
  The final point of the preamble is a lofty goal of securing the blessings of liberty. But liberty is when the government serves her people, not when government oppresses her people.
"..Liberty is when the government serves her people, not when government oppresses her people."
  The federal government is the child of the member states.  But through subtle corruption, the feds have mutinied and held her parents hostage and imprisoned. For this reason I object to any federal fuel tax or any other tax directly assigned to retailers and fuel customers. Instead, I believe the states should directly appropriate money to federal arterial highways, just as Oklahoma and Texas built the bridge across the Red River. Fuel Tax is a tariff, of sorts; which are only constitutional for foreign goods. And since 99.9% of the infrastructure projects are within 'sovereign' states, I believe the cost of those roads are primarily the responsibility of those who own the land under the roads.
  In Oklahoma, pseudo-government trusts have built interstate roads with toll fees, rather than take on the expense in the general budget. So even if the feds have authority to place tariffs to pay for roads, that doesn't mean it's  the best way. For instance, when I take my family to a state park for the weekend,  we pay a user fee for the exclusive daily use of a campsite. I don't argue that all citizens share equally in paying for my weekend accommodations. Even he federal park service charges campsite fees instead of making all taxpayers pay the family's overnight campsite fee.
Oklahoma's senior U.S. senator, Jim Inhofe
 The same is true of highways. Those who travel the Turner Turnpike are the beneficiaries. If you don't want to pay a few more bucks to get there quicker, then take old Route 66 and pay the extra fuel that it takes, plus the wasted extra hour of travel time. That's real choice and real liberty.
  Senator Jim Inhofe is a brave statesman, but I would encourage him to show some remarkable courage by championing a transportation bill which assesses the parent states for the essential funding, rather than taxing the fuel we all buy. That way the federal government is not taxing the city taxi service for an interstate system which the local taxi driver never uses.

David Van Risseghem

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