On The Road(s)


I live in Southern California, and I drive a lot. To get to work it usually takes me about an hour and twenty minutes, which involves three freeways and end-to-end roughly a 20 degree difference in temperature. Some (or most) people I work with think it’s weird, or crazy, that I live so far away from where I work, but I genuinely don’t mind it. It’s always been one of those things that’s, like, ‘yeah, that’d be cool to live closer,’ and yet after five years it has clearly not been a priority of mine.

Anyway, over the last couple months on my drives to and from work I’ve noticed some new Cal-Trans signs on the freeways. They are orange and blue and white, and they read what couldn’t help but grab my attention:

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK / REBUILDING CALIFORNIA

Now I didn’t know this until I went online looking for a picture for this article, the one you are reading right now, but there is actually a group out there that are calling these signs a “cynical PR stunt,” in lieu of a potential November vote to repeal Senate Bill 1.

SB1 was passed in April of 2017, a bill that taxes 12 cents on every gallon of gas and is supposed to generate $54 billion over the next ten years. That money will be used to help rebuild California’s antiquated transportation infrastructure, which will tidy up roads and help alleviate some of the obscene traffic congestion.

I should have fucking known that some idiots would actually be opposed to such signs, but only because someone like me — a true lefty — was so pleasantly surprised on my drives to see such a clear and honest message. I had this harmless intention to write about what a good idea these Cal-Trans signs are, and then I got sidetracked for three goddamn paragraphs researching and getting informed about what SB1 is. All thanks to that stupid fucking group.

The point is: People need to know that government can work. There’s an obscure outfit of Americans who believe, and post memes on places like Facebook and Instagram, that “taxation is theft.” Those individuals are either misinformed or uninformed, but at any rate they don’t understand how government operates. In the United States people pay some of the lowest taxes in the world, so shut up.

The problem, and the reason so many American citizens are so disillusioned by the U.S. Government, is that too many don’t have anything tangible to attribute to where all their tax dollars go. I mean it doesn’t help that more than 60 percent of taxes go to the Department of Defense, which then get turned into weapons and machinery that get sent off to help fight wars that the American people are overwhelmingly against. When comparatively so little gets pumped into healthcare, education, and infrastructure, people see so little of the government helping their lives.

Take Medicare For All as an example. It is hardly inconceivable, and in fact probably more likely than not, that the reason the donor class expresses so much resistance to socialized healthcare is because it would show ordinary people that government can better their lives. If people experience firsthand the effect government has when used properly, or ideally, it gives them confidence that it can also work with such things as education and cleaning up the roads.

More government is a dangerous idea to the billionaires, the upper crust of the top one percent that has bought the policy makers of the federal government, that so brilliantly uses culture war to convince working people to vote for lower taxes. The less tax revenue, the worse the schools, the worse the roads, the worse the everything. The tax breaks are and always have been for those at the very top, not the low-wage worker who stands to earn an extra $40 or $50 per paycheck.

It is sort of appropriate that Cal-Trans erected these signs, since Cal-Trans is both (a) a government agency and (b) has a unionized workforce. Along with teachers, trash collectors, cops, and firefighters, the tax dollars of Californians pay for Cal-Trans employees. It’s a good-paying job, generally starting in the range of about $30 per hour, and they receive excellent health insurance and retirement benefits. If you want to know the future of America, look no further than labor unions.

If these signs are political, then what isn’t considered political? What is so wrong about the government being transparent with where tax dollars are being used? From where I sit, it seems that the only reason someone wouldn’t want these signs up is because they prefer the population to be in the dark on such matters. Is that not more political, and nefarious, than a simple sign to inform the public?

Again, the only assumption I can make is that big money interests — who stand to profit from the repeal of SB1 — are behind the campaign to squash this effort. Because if this gas tax eventually makes it easier for Californians to commute, they have no other option than to think their tax dollars went to something beneficial. And, again, if it can work with the roads, what’s to stop it from working elsewhere?

Obviously this is the type of shit I care about, since to me it’s important that the public be better educated. I think every public school — from K-12 — should have a giant sign in front of the administration building that reads YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK. Every Social Security office should have a giant sign in front that reads YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK. Every garbage truck, every police car, every firetruck, same thing.

Naturally, there probably aren’t as many people who think like me. When the super-wealthy get together and gin up a propaganda campaign to get poor people to vote for lower taxes, against their own interests, the rich usually do pretty well. And they do well because government is generally unpopular in the United States, and taxes are unpopular everywhere.

I’m in solidarity with Cal-Trans and the message they relay because regardless of their motivation for the signs, they’re correct. Your tax dollars are at work, and if we see this thing through then it will make life on the California roads better for everybody. That isn’t exactly Medicare For All, increasing the minimum wage, free public college, or expanding Social Security, but it’s at least a start. And it would be a win for government.

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