An Insanity of Shovel-Ready Projects

When you find your self in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.  The problem is, continuing worn out euphemisms, when your only tool is a shovel you tend to think every hole needs to be deeper.

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results” – Narcotics Anonymous, 1982

The front page of today’s STrib highlights our continued national addiction to shovels and “shovel-ready projects”  (note: the individual stories may be hiding behind their pay wall, boo hiss).  First, in glowing color, Governor Dayton announced a $975 million Viking Stadium deal, gifting $398,000,000 in #Wilfare to Zygi Wilf and the rest of the NFL millionaires club.  Oh, wait, there’s also $150,000,000 in City of Minneapolis hospitality taxes to divert, so round it up to Half a Gazillion Dollars (OK, $548,000 if you must, but it’s a lot).  I won’t even get into the gambling angle yet…

Next door in the side column, the U.S. House approved another pork-barrel bridge-to-nowhere, this time across our own $690 million Stillwater Bridge over the St. Croix from Wisconsin.

What the heck, you’d think we were rolling in clover instead of facing record debt and deficits.

I’ve commented before on the Vikings boondoggle.  Sports are a luxury we can ill afford at this time.  Just because we can build stadiums, doesn’t mean we should build stadiums.  Engineer Charles Marohn has well critiqued the Stillwater Bridge on his Strong Towns blog:

 At $668 million, it generates no financial return to the taxpayer. It is another mindless DOT project oblivious to the cost and benefit but proceeding under the assumption that curing congestion – at any cost – is a good thing. At over $6 per crossing, the project is tremendous mis-allocation of resources.

We could, according to Chuck’s analysis, fix every single one of the 1,149 Minnesota on MnDOT’s deficient bridge list for what it will cost to build one new bridge across the St. Croix.  We’d have enough left over to give every family in the city of Stillwater a check for $12,000 to mitigate congestion of the existing structure there.

In a state where we had a bridge fall down and 13 people died, it is an apostacy that our policies continue to reflect outdated values.

Even more puzzling for me personally is how many of my conservative friends back both projects.  Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann, outspoken Tea Party patriot, is a vocal supporter of this pork barrel bridge project.  And numerous state GOP leaders have spent valuable time and talent brokering stadium deals this year (and the year before and the year before that).

Please, friends, drop the bright shiny objects and get back to work.



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