Have you ever heard of a “Rube Goldberg machine?” Goldberg was an editorial cartoonist and crazy parody inventor who specialized in ridiculous contraptions.
For example, he had a self-operating napkin with about twenty moving parts that relied on a parrot, a skyrocket and a chain reaction to set off an explosion causing a machine to wipe your chin
The dictionary definition of a Rube Goldberg machine is “an apparatus deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion.”
The wacky inventor has been dead for 45 years, but he seems to have inspired the Michigan Legislature’s plans to fix our roads.
I’m talking mostly about the Republicans.
Democrats don’t seem to have any plan other than saying rich corporations should assume the expense.
Democrats don’t matter, however, because Republicans control everything, and the ones in our Legislature clearly couldn’t park a tricycle straight even with a manual.
There is one exception: Governor Rick Snyder.
I haven’t always been a fan of his, but he has been the only adult with a sensible, logical plan to fix the roads. It wasn’t perfect, but it relied mainly on raising the state gasoline tax. This makes sense for all sorts of reasons.
For one thing, the price of gas constantly fluctuates so much almost nobody would notice a 10 or even 20 cent increase after a week. For another, there’s sort of a rough justice about it.
Someone who drives 30,000 miles a year, like me, would pay three times as much as someone who drives 10,000 miles a year.
That may not be perfect, but it would have worked.
Yet this wasn’t acceptable to the right-wing ideologues, who think all taxes are bad, even if they end up saving lives and money.
So year after year, they have failed to come up with what’s needed to fix the roads.
Well, now the crazies have come up with a plan that, a) raises taxes unfairly and in an extremely complex way -- b) cuts the general fund by $600 million a year, a move guaranteed to hurt education and essential programs -- and c) doesn’t provide enough to fix the roads.
You might call it a Rube Goldberg machine that doesn’t work. And our Legislature loves it.
The House passed it last week, and the Senate may as well.
Yesterday, however, some of the senators got cold feet, since it steeply raises car registration fees immediately.
But they are trying to work that out. This plan, by the way, wouldn’t even produce the full $1.2 billion a year the governor says is needed till 2022. By then, the damage done will be so severe it might require $3 billion a year.
If they pass this thing, the governor should veto it on the spot.
Earlier, he indicated he couldn’t support cutting the general fund this much, but there are signs Snyder may well sign this now, perhaps because he wants to say he did manage to fix the roads.
If he does sign it, he will have done nothing except further weaken our state. In the final analysis, we would have been better off trying to fix the roads with a Goldberg machine.
They were inefficient, but they nearly always worked.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.