By Average Joe
A curious commercial by the Detroit International Bridge Company keeps popping up on local television. The spot claims that dastardly Michigan politicians are trying to waste $2 billion in taxpayer money to build another “bridge to nowhere.”
While the commercial would have viewers believe it is the effort by a concerned group of citizens to stop a government boondoggle, it turns out the “Detroit International Bridge Company” is just a front for billionaire Manuel Moroun. Mr. Moroun owns and operates that Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. As it turns out, Mr. Moroun’s private ownership of the bridge grants him a de facto monopoly over one of the country’s busiest commercial traffic routes.
So when his commercial proclaims “we don’t need [another bridge],” no one should take that statement as face value since we do need Mr. Moroun’s bridge. And Mr. Moroun’s ownership of the crossing has proven quite lucrative for him.
Currently, the eighty year-old bridge is clogged with traffic. Mr. Moroun insists that traffic is down by half since 2000 and construction of a new bridge would leave him unable to pay his bills. Of course, much of the decline in traffic was due to the collapse of the Detroit auto industry and has rebounded since. Further, the decline hasn’t stopped Mr. Moroun from planning how own brand-new bridge…right next to his current one.
If anyone wants an example of how the Tea Party mentality laid waste to effective public policy, Mr. Moroun’s campaign to keep his bridge monopoly is it. With assistance from the Koch brothers, Mr. Moroun has effectively “co-opted some of the Tea Party movement” and made his bridge a case of “free enterprise versus big government,” making governing Republicans terrified of opposing him.
Indeed, watching Mr. Moroun’s commercial, the appeal to the Tea Party mentality is obvious. Viewers would believe any new bridge would merely be another case of excessive government waste. The truth, however, is that this appears to be the case of one man’s “free enterprise” standing in the way of everyone’s economic progress.
The new bridge’s biggest advocates are the state’s Republican executive and a coalition of local businesses and the Big Three automakers. As Michigan’s lieutenant governor puts it: “Everyone wants a private bridge. The question is, do they want a private bridge for one politically active family with exclusive access to a monopoly?”
There’s a question that goes utterly unaddressed by the Detroit International Bridge Company.