EDITORIAL: Muddying the waters

Bill Wilson / February 10, 2011

Do you want to know what wet, muddy pants feel like when you belly up to the Thanksgiving table in front of the entire family? I would guess downright embarrassing.

Of course, everything below my belt has remained dry while passing and forking in mashed potatoes and stuffing, but I did play a hand in the ugly splashdown.

Adam was a newcomer to the Wilson family tradition, and was just as anxious to come across as a big shot. He was the son of my uncle’s then-current girlfriend, but little did he know that under the overcast gray in the rural suburbs of Detroit in 1982, he would become one poor son of a gun. However, Adam’s downfall was he was too focused on who was watching.

It played out like this: Me, Adam, my father, two uncles and grandfather decided to take a leisurely stroll in a local field after the Chicago Bears/Detroit Lions football game. On the verge of nodding off to the talk of politics and clan war stories, I released myself from the pack and began my own no-frills expedition. Adam was right behind. There was a small creek that cut through the long, thick and equally dead grass, and the competitive being in me urged a jump. Surely I could clear it, and a few minutes later I did under the unexpected eyes of the Wilson men. Then came Adam’s live-and-on-stage debacle. He even announced the headline act.

“Hey, guys, watch me jump over this water,” he yelled to the distant group of four.

With that, he was off. I will admit he was gathering some serious long-jump steam when, in a sudden act of egotism, he looked back to see if all eyes were still on him. This was equivalent to taking the foot completely off the accelerator. Adam was doomed, and soon after he dripped in humility. The large uproar of laughter, albeit at a distance, did not help, either.

So here we have the new members of Congress equally as eager to look back to the voters and announce their campaign-promise achievements, and the very first day on the job there is a change in the House rules that basically makes it permissible to toy with Highway Trust Fund money. They even lifted any funding guarantees for good measure.

“Hey, guys, watch me slash the federal deficit,” they are shouting from the steps of the Capitol Hill.

Federal lawmakers might want to check their pants, because there is a stain that everybody is pointing to—the unemployment numbers. Above all else, the American public wants more jobs, and by giving the highway industry a wet and mudslinging welcome, the arrogance that fills to the top of the pearl-white dome in Washington, D.C., is killing any kind of star power these politicians may gain.

I understand that these rule changes happen with every new majority, and that Democrats are to blame as well, but I am fighting with the logic behind this one. I mean, most of the newcomers still needed a security-guard escort back to their offices—not because they fear their safety, but because it was that or fumbling over a map of the building. These people are not even familiar with their surroundings, but in less than 24 hours the string of aimless actions already has a familiar ring to it.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood tried to dry-clean the damage, pounding his iron fist down on the possibility of a long-term highway bill passing by the August recess. Yes, Q-tip the mud out of your ears, the next SAFETEA-LU will arrive in less than six months. Why do I get the feeling this so-called fresh start, this clean slate sits atop layers and layers of White-Out and corrective tape? It has been less than a month, and I know this is downright embarrassing.

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