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The Times
  • Philip Maddocks: Republicans want individuals to have the freedom to build their own highway

  • Unveiling an ambitious new approach to address the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said at a campaign stop in Ohio on Monday that the decision of where to locate and how to configure our national highways is a decision best left to individuals and “not to some government bureaucrat with an engineering degree.”

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  • Unveiling an ambitious new approach to address the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said at a campaign stop in Ohio on Monday that the decision of where to locate and how to configure our national highways is a decision best left to individuals and “not to some government bureaucrat with an engineering degree.”
    “You know how you drive better than anyone. You know what your traveling needs are. You don’t need the government making decisions for you about how you commute to work or the supermarket,” Mr. Romney said, addressing a cheering crowd adorned in hardhats from the cab of a land excavator.
    “This is a decision,” he said,  “that should be made between an individual and his personal contractor, not by the government.”
    Flanked in the cramped quarters of the excavator by his wife Ann, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and an empty chair, Mr. Romney passionately argued the case for allowing the contours, expanse, and load-bearing specifications for our country’s roadways and bridges to be shaped by individual innovation and private enterprise.
    “The road to prosperity begins on the roads that we build ourselves,” Mr. Romney said, adding that the Romney-Ryan “You Built It” highway program would make the nation’s roads safer because individual citizen owners would now have an incentive to keep their highways free of mangled vehicle parts.
    Decked out in a starched and pressed orange safety vest and wearing spotless work gloves, Mr. Romney said that “if we are going to get this country turned around, we are going to do it together, in our individual cars, on the roads that each of us builds.”
    “Unlike this president,” he said, “I believe in America. And unlike this president, I believe that decisions about the building of roads and bridges are best left up to the individual. That may not be how they do it in Europe. But we are not Europe. We are the greatest nation on earth.”
    In an inspirational aside, Mr. Ryan told the crowd that it had taken him less than four hours to build a 26-mile stretch of road east from his Wisconsin home toward the White House – a stretch of road, he said, that will help preserve the Medicare program that is now under threat from Democrats.
    “What we’re saying is that if you work hard and play by the rules, then you are capable of building your own highway,” he said.
    Mr. Romney explained that under the new Romney-Ryan plan some of the money earmarked for the federal government’s Department of Transportation would be distributed instead to individuals through vouchers, which they could then use to pay for the construction of roads that best suit their individual needs.
    Page 2 of 2 - “If I want to build a highway that runs through my neighbor’s yard because that is the most efficient way for me to get to the polo club that my NASCAR owner buddies play at, that should be my choice – and not the government’s – to make,” Mr. Romney said.
    “My question to you,” said the Republican presidential candidate, “is this, is your commute any better than it was four years ago? If you are anything like me – and frankly who is? – I’d wager $10,000 that you feel less well off in your daily driving since this president took office and put in place his extreme policies on our road-building freedoms.”
    Not everyone seemed convinced of the soundness of Mr. Romney’s plan to turn over the rebuilding of the nation’s highway infrastructure to individual citizens.
    “It’s been my experience that it takes a certain level of engineering expertise – and teamwork - to design a highway system and a six-lane twin span bridge,” said Richard Dousel, president of DSG, an engineering firm based in Alexandria, Va. “Having one person build a road doesn’t seem very practical or cost efficient to me.”
    Mr. Dousel said he also worried about the quality, durability, accessibility, and directionality that would result from such an individualistic enterprise.
    “How am I going to know where I am going and what are my chances of getting there?” he wondered.
    But Mr. Ryan dismissed such concerns as elitist and typical of the tired old thinking that dominates Washington. He insisted that left to its own devices the market would find the right solutions.
    Mr. Romney said the plan would also have a significant economic benefit.
    “I just went home and checked my tax returns,” he said, “and I can assure you that if everyone went out today and started building roads, then it wouldn’t be necessary for anyone else to have to pay more than 13 percent in income tax.”
    Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at pmaddocks@wickedlocal.com.
     
     
     
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