IBJOpinion

MARCUS: No statistics on death by pothole

Morton Marcus
April 9, 2011
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Morton Marcus

Nothing stirs the imagination like a near-death experience. Last Saturday, I am driving north out of Columbus on Interstate 65. I am obediently in the right-hand lane at 70 mph. On my left is a sport-utility vehicle passing me slowly. Suddenly, a blue car is passing to the left of the SUV. There is no third lane and only a minor shoulder on the left.

The SUV driver avoids being rammed by pulling sharply in front of me. Now, with a vehicle directly in front of me, I look into the rearview mirror to check on the tractor-trailer right behind me. 

I pull sharply to the right onto the right shoulder before pulling just as sharply left, straddling the rumble strip. The SUV does the same and then eases back into the travel lane. I also return to the travel lane. The blue car is far ahead of us. No physical damage. No deaths.

This outcome is not unusual. Automotive and highway engineers design cars and roads to protect us. Each time we drive on a two-lane Hoosier road at 55 mph and see another vehicle traveling toward us at the same speed, we witness the miracle of survival.

Those who drive recklessly are roadway terrorists. They endanger others as they race to some reward or away from some punishment. They speed through red lights and ignore stop signs. They contributed to 43,000 American highway deaths last year.

Yet we must wonder how many of those deaths are caused by potholes and our fellow citizens who believe virtue lies in cutting government spending by cutting taxes.

Thus far this year, I have replaced three tires destroyed by Indiana potholes. What other damage have potholes caused? There are no records kept of accidents resulting from swerving to avoid a pothole. Damage to the steering mechanism is not obvious, and a pothole may cause a death many miles from its location.

There are streets in my town I no longer drive on. I avoid certain direct routes because of horrendous road conditions. I will not accept, however, the excuses of my mayor that this was a bad winter.

No. The problem is that politicians insist on ignoring our roles as citizens and thinking of us only as taxpayers. It is not the cold of winter that withholds funds from fixing the streets. It is the cold in the hearts of too many voters who deny our communal responsibilities.

We live or die because others are careful or reckless. The tragedy is that a growing number of Americans, including many Hoosiers, believe we are or should be independent of one another. The result is that elected officials pander to this view and do not act responsibly.

When government cuts services to the disabled and ignores potholes, it claims insufficient revenue. But why is revenue insufficient? The blame rests on those who will not support the primary functions of government with higher taxes at the expense of less consumer spending. Instead, they focus on an agenda to appease the radical fringe passionate about abortion and gay marriage.

Killing people with potholes is not a sin to these enemies of liberty. Destroying the lives of afflicted families by withholding assistance is not a social virtue. How do we rouse our fellow citizens to understand the linkages of modern life and the need to be our brother’s keeper?•

__________

Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.

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  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

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