Wait Until They Are Dead

Politicians like new bridges, buildings, roads or airports because they get credit for them. Nobody gets much credit for maintenance later on. The ultimate hubris is getting a public work named after you. A sensible suggestion about infrastructure is that we should never name any public work after any living politician. Wait until they are dead and see if we still think they are worth the honor.

When you go to a public building, a bridge or even a park bench you often see a list with names of mayors, senators, aldermen etc. Why? It was not an act of their generosity that got the project built. They did not use their own money. The extent of their actual work on the project was probably tossing a half shovel full of dirt. They just taxed and spent and/or happened to be around when the project was done.

It extends to other things too. Did any of you get a Fulbright Scholarship? Did Fulbright really pay for your education, or did that money come from the taxes your family and neighbors paid? Many of us save our money in a Roth IRA. The IRS lets us keep some of our own money and we credit this Roth fellow. Do these guys really deserve to have their names associated, now and forever, with generosity they never manifested?

On the other hand, some people who do really useful things are not recognized or suffer from the recognition. I have heard that the story that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet is not entirely accurate, but this is sometimes the fate of real people who do good things. There was a terrible wasting disease called Chagas named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who first described it in 1909.

Why don’t we name diseases and toilets after living politicians and save the buildings, bridges and airports for people who achieve something in real life? This sometimes well may be politicians, but probably a lot less often than now. But you cannot judge the success of a life until it is finished so let’s wait until they are dead (maybe ten years after) to judge whether or not they deserve the honor.

I suppose we could name maintenance projects after the politicians who were in office at the time. You could be thankful that you no longer bumped your head as you drove over the Teddy Kennedy pothole or the Robert Byrd new asphalt. This stuff would last about as long maybe longer than their legacies.

Posted by Jack at August 14, 2007 8:13 PM
Comment #229426

So, instead of driving ahead with a frank discussion of the problems posed by not paying more for infrastructure in this country, and about where we can get the revenue to pay for it and how we can motivate politicians to make it a higher priority in the future… you have decided to detour into a discussion on what names are given to elements of infrastructure? On who gets “credit” for it by these names? How does this remotely address the issue?

Or is this post merely a pothole in the path of people trying to find a solution?

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 14, 2007 9:26 PM
Comment #229427


We do not have a problem with funds for infrastructure. We have a problem with management of those funds because of the political process. We raise money for roads mostly through the gas tax. I think it is adequate if we do not waste the money on politically favored projects, such as those bridges to nowhere or that great road system in the hills of W. Virginia.

If you want to raise the gas tax to pay for new roads etc instead of managing the money we have better, I have no trouble with that. As you know, I am in favor of higher gas prices, no matter how we get at it. I do not think that most of your Dem allies will go along with that in an election year, however.

Posted by: Jackj at August 14, 2007 9:39 PM
Comment #229428


We all love our own personal heroes. I’ve never been to a city or town (regardless of size) in Kansas that does NOT have an Eisenhower Street/Avenue. I’d bet he has more things named after him than any American with the possible exceptions of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.

Somehow I doubt George W. Bush will be bestowed with the same adoration. Then again neither will I, which is good. The nickname bestowed upon me at my last job was (literally) “dick-head” because I made changes happen with no regard for individuals. (Basically downsizing through mechanization.)

Management loved me until I got sick and became a weight around their ankles. Then I was discarded just like so many that I helped discard ……… sigh ……… :^(


Posted by: KansasDem at August 14, 2007 9:49 PM
Comment #229430

A rose by any other name ……..

Who cares what these things are named? Really?

Posted by: womanmarine at August 14, 2007 10:33 PM
Comment #229439

Let’s just move to sponsoring bridges and public works. We name staduims? Why not name a bridge after its corporate sponsor?

- Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps Microsoft Gates Bridge? Or is that to obvious?
- Hoover Dam, perhaps the Haliburton Dam? Or am I reaching here?
- Chicago’s Eisenhower Tollway, perhaps the Boeing Tollway?

I am thinking there are some creative opportunities here? And a willing company can get their “visits” & “clicks” in a whole new way.

This would seem to provide competetive bidding, local sponsorship, regular infusion of money, and take some of the burden off the tax payer.

Posted by: Honest at August 14, 2007 11:39 PM
Comment #229440

Jack, you’re right about this awful tendency for public works to be named after politicians. If the politician is dead (or perhaps even retired) and is still held in high public esteem, that’s one thing. Instead of making the naming of public works and initiatives the political spoils of whoever can force taxpayers to fund them, perhaps we should celebrate the far-more important contributions of scientists, artists and intellectuals by naming things after them instead.

What I find even more annoying, however, is the completely ridiculous naming of legislative initiatives. For example, “No Child Left Behind,” the “Patriot Act,” and other similarly named bills which tell you nothing about what these measures actually contain and are just brazen attempts at manipulating public support. I mean, who is for “leaving children behind,” or against “patriotism?”

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 14, 2007 11:47 PM
Comment #229448


We already do that here in Indy a bit, the medians in the middle of the roads are ‘adopted’ and maintained by volunteer groups, who then keep the medians cut and free of litter, etc. In return they get a nice sign that lets everyone know about how much their group cares and works at keeping their little area clean.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 15, 2007 12:16 AM
Comment #229452


Like baseball, how can we know the PORKERS, I mean CROOKED POLITICIANS, oops, PLAYERS without a bridge or avenue or bench or park (read scorecard) to keep tabs on them? Their arrogance and self love is a great way to judge the true measure of their commitment, to themselves and their precious legacies!

Posted by: JR at August 15, 2007 12:48 AM
Comment #229458


Absolutely. Names are often used to deceive. I remember Reagan’s “revenue enhancers” and “Peacekeepers.” We have a Department of Defense; the old War Department was more accurately named. The government perserves our “freedom” by claiming the right to wiretap without a warrant our overseas calls.

All students should be required to read Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”

Posted by: Gerrold at August 15, 2007 1:35 AM
Comment #229459

Jack, I like your reasoning here. I would go further and end the practice of naming public works after the hired help who already reap many benefits from the public. Instead, I would recommend naming public works after persons who dedicate themselves to the benefit and welfare of others at no small sacrifice, such as our hero soldiers, fire fighters, police, non-profit organization founders who take no compense. To herald duty, devotion, and sacrifice is far more defensible than naming public works after paid servant politicians.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 15, 2007 2:00 AM
Comment #229462

The DOT states there are 73,000 bridges in the US that need structural repair. Some will fall down and kill people.Perhaps that is enough for politicians to decline having bridges named after them.That can’t be good PR.Of course these bridges are already named so we should change the names after current politicians. That way to avoid embarassment they would likely push for funds to maintain them.

I read apiece about the KKK trying to adopt a highway,. I forget where exactly but the highway dept. denied them. They went to court and won eventually but the problem was that many local residents could not resist the urge to dump their grabage along that particular stretch.I am not a litterbug but I would not pass that up either.

Posted by: BillS at August 15, 2007 2:19 AM
Comment #229469

Perhaps we should name failed roads, bridges, and tunnels that kill and injure, after politicians sitting in government. They could draw straws.

Or to achieve real justice, the surviving families of victims to a failed public infrastructure should be reimbursed for all the federal taxes they had paid in their lives to the time of their family member’s loss. After all, the victim did pay taxes for safe roads and bridges, and tunnels. Their survivors should be entitled to a refund for a broken contract.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 15, 2007 3:20 AM
Comment #229490

On the point of not naming facilities after living people, I’m in complete agreement. In fact, I wish they would name more stadiums, facilities and public works after dead people, rather than naming them after corporations.

Not that I mind corporations or their existence. I wouldnt’ even go so far as to malign them as a necessary evil. Corporations are like people: you know them by the fruit they bear.

But naming a stadium or something after them? Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but corporate marketing should not occupy every corner of our lives. All work and no play makes Jack(no pun intended) a dull boy, and our society is dangerously close to making itself a nation of rather dull boys. At some point, people just need a break from the need to feed the beast.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 15, 2007 11:27 AM
Comment #229504

Biden ,like him or not,is a pretty knowelable guy on national defense . He has identified about$70 billion in useless weapons systems developement. He proposes useing $30 billion of the savings to build up the number of troops in the Army and Marines. We could use the other $40 billion to fix bridges etc. without more expense.That would keep more Americans safe than the stupid star wars system ever will and provide an economic stimulas as well.

Posted by: BillS at August 15, 2007 1:42 PM
Comment #229507


Please don’t try such a simple straw man argument. “Where to get the money” does not necessarily equal “how to raise more money”. If you want to see us spend our existing money better, what specific programs you would like to see us cut? What specific investments would you like to see us making in order to spend existing highway funds better?

As for bridges to nowhere, the bridge in question connected a town in Alaska with its airport rather than making every air traveller take a 15 minute ferry ride at a cost of $6 per car. Ultimately that will enable the town to become more prosperous and bring in higher tax revenues as a result. And the highway in the hills of West Virginia is one of the best road systems in that area. I last had occasion to use it in the summer 2004, on my way to Virginia from Minnesota. After hours of following tiny twisting “highways” up and down mountains I finally emerged onto a clear stretch of wide open road. Roads like that are needed in that area. They are safer for multiple large vehicles like school buses and coal trucks to travel on together. They connect rural areas with the rest of the nation. They open up new routes for transporting goods and workers cross-country. This is why we have a federal highway system in the first place.


Thank you. That is exactly the kind of discussion about funding I was hoping for.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 15, 2007 2:29 PM
Comment #229509
I’d bet he has more things named after him than any American with the possible exceptions of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.

Don’t forget about Kennedy. Heck, the main esplanade in Istanbul and a major road in Luxembourg are named after him. I know I’ve seen others across Europe.

Posted by: LawnBoy at August 15, 2007 3:10 PM
Comment #229513

We should use the money we are going to spend in Iraq to build new bridges in America. Then we will truely be using the money to make Americans safer.

Posted by: jlw at August 15, 2007 3:58 PM
Comment #229523

jlw, I am positive that is exactly how the Democrats would want to spend the money they saved by moving us out of Iraq. We can name the first Bridge Pelosi and the second Bridge Reid. Whenever they are built. Not.

Posted by: Edge at August 15, 2007 4:41 PM
Comment #229541


How long would it take to pay for that bridge at $6 a car? Re W. Virginia, they build roads that are fun ot drive on but there is nobody out there. Maybe some places are not meant to be heavily traveled. It is not worth it, but if Americans are willing to raise gas taxes, I do not care.

You also assume that money would be well spent. It already is not. We will just get more bridges to nowhere and big highways in W. Virginia. Meanwhile the bridges in Minnesota will not get much better.

Anyway, raise the gas tax as much as you think possible. I ride a bike and own a hybrid. Just do not expect all that money is going to do much good until we manage it better.


Those kinds of comparisons are alway intersting, but they are not that useful. We will be significantly less involved in Iraq by next year, no matter what. Will the Dems use ALL the savings for roads?

YOu are also assuming all the money spent on Iraq is somehow lost. Much of the money is in the form of salaries or procurements that go back into the U.S. economy. SO if you cut all that money, you would not be able to recover the same amount.

Posted by: Jack at August 15, 2007 9:24 PM
Comment #229552


“We will be significantly less involved in Iraq by next year, no matter what.”

And for all intents and purposes we will be in Iran next.

Iraq will be a drop in the bucket by comparison.

Posted by: Rocky at August 15, 2007 10:24 PM
Comment #229556


We will not be in Iran. That is a fantasy created by the Iranians & Bush opponents.

Posted by: Jack at August 15, 2007 10:58 PM
Comment #229588

The war in Iraq is being fought on credit anyway.Useing the money not spent there is not possible.,a bit like paying a credit card bill with a credit card.

In CA we have a high gas tax. Supposedly the money goes for roads and bridges. Every year there is a grab for the funds for other purposes. Seems if the Governor says it is an emergency it can be used for other budget items. We have passed an initiative to stop that but it goes on anyway. One reason is there is a mandated percent of the budget for education. There is not much wiggle room for the governor or the legislature so rather than raise taxes they grab for everything they can.We do spend a lot in infrastructure and even more since RINO governor Arnold. A good deal of this is being paid for with bonds.

Posted by: BillS at August 16, 2007 1:30 AM
Comment #229607


We agree. That is what I have been writing. We have enough money ostensibly going to roads, but the politicians are moving it to other “worthy” i.e. politically attractive projects AND there is no money to be taken from Iraq and applied to infrastructure.

Posted by: Jack at August 16, 2007 7:57 AM
Comment #229626


Jack, does that mean we shouldn’t look forward to naming a new football or baseball ‘league’ after Bush?

Posted by: RGF at August 16, 2007 11:45 AM
Comment #229661


Some years after he is dead and his legacy is vindicated, you can name a bridge after him.

I think the Bush league would be for Dems.

Posted by: Jack at August 16, 2007 4:39 PM
Comment #229693

More likely a prison after him.

Posted by: BillS at August 16, 2007 10:27 PM
Comment #229715


That too is memorable.

Posted by: Jack at August 17, 2007 7:22 AM
Comment #230023


Plese try to be objective about this.
Like it or not, Bush has broken every negative economic play that any administration ever could have. He has rune up more deficit, expanded the national more, added more the size, expense and invasiveness of our federal government…

Further, he has viiolated and supported the violation of our constitution, entered us into a lose-lose war illegaly, actually openly advocated for giving the military and the CIA the authority to violate both international treaties and American law, he has lied to Congress and to the U.N.

How does anybody, much less this moron, “vindicate” such a record?

Why do you suppose the current GOP candidates are avoiding any connection to Bush?

Bush-league was a silly joke on my part -
But the sad reality is …it’s too rea to be very funny.

Your boy is the worst in history. End of story.

Posted by: RGF at August 20, 2007 6:10 PM
Comment #242612

David Remer, I agree with you. Why do they name all these things after the hired help. I have found it disgusting for a long time. In our town, a convention building was given a number. Which sounds fishy in retrospect. Then money was allocated to the town under the condition that the convention bldg. was named after one of our retiring senators.

Posted by: claudia b. at January 9, 2008 12:50 AM
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