EDITORIAL: Restless nights, and days

Bill Wilson / December 17, 2010

For me, the future never comes out at night.

Dreams of deadly tornadoes and falls off of 500-ft cliffs usually show their face during the dark hours. There are no revelations about the next day, week or year. My mom, however, puts her head on a crystal ball when she sleeps. She’s constantly having dreams about what will happen. I know, right now you think somebody should throw an actual pillowcase over my head and toss me into an insane asylum, but I assure you this is not a figment of my imagination. My mom claims to have dreamt about my birth, when I was put on a respirator and given last rights, days before it happened. In fact, when the doctor came in with a somber look on his face she basically relieved him of his breaking bad news duty, and rambled off exactly what was going on. More recently, when my wife and I were pregnant with our second child, she tapped into her psychic REM and predicted a third. Was it an easy call? Well, considering it took three years to produce the middle, yes. By the way, Declan completed our trio and arrived on Sept. 28.

So when it comes to forecasts, I think it is safe to say that ability was left in the possession of the prior generation in my family. Thankfully, I do believe I have a wealth of knowledge about the road and bridge marketplace to pass on, so here is what my conscious is flashing before my eyes . . .

The proposed 25-cent increase in the federal gas tax will never get off the ground. A portion of the spike would go toward deficit reduction, which should tug at the heartstrings of the busload of new Congressional conservatives. However, only the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform had endorsed the move as of Nov. 19, and a final report was due on Dec. 1.

The newly decorated House, which will be mostly red in a few weeks, and a touched-up Senate will be too focused on picking out a pattern to their healthcare revolt that every other piece of legislation will be thrown aside, much like it was when the power-devouring Democrats shoved the “revolutionary” legislation down the throat of every American. Contractors will continue to suffer the most during this lagging dip in the recession. Material prices will remain moderately steady, but unemployment, which was just over 17% in November, will approach 18.5%.

President Obama will revisit his $50 billion transportation strategy he unveiled during the Labor Day holiday briefly (there might be a mention or two to let the public know he’s aware that the infrastructure system is approaching death’s door), but little action will be taken. I do see the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank in 2011, but it will not be in service until 2012 at the earliest.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), new chief of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will get their requested six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, but that deadline will come and go and before you know it the politicians will be pulling at the expired piece of legislation again. Mica will most likely have the House version of the highway bill ready by June, but the Senate will not have anything until September or October.

With that said, the dream of a six-year federal paycheck made out to the road and bridge industry will stay in the heads of the hopeful come year’s end.

I’ve covered the fact that I’m not dealing with a complete Tarot card deck, and the unpredictable antics of major-league politicians make any prognostication suspect, but a little voice inside me is sounding awfully convincing. In fact, it sounds eerily familiar.

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