Our federal and state highways and bridges are among America's great assets; they enable us to drive freely and safely all over the country, and they belong to all of us, paid for by our taxes. But they are expensive assets; they require maintenance, repair and expansion due to rising population and traffic.
Anyone who does much driving on our highways in ordinary sedans knows how crowded with big trucks the highways already are. President George W. Bush's latest concession to Mexico is to allow Mexican trucks for the first time to have open access to all our highways, roads and bridges.
It is painful to note that the Bush administration is less protective of U.S. interests than the late, unlamented administration of former president Bill Clinton. To his credit, Clinton kept Mexican trucks off U.S. highways except for a 25-mile commercial zone immediately north of the border.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters went to El Paso, Texas, to announce that for the first time, starting in April, 100 Mexican trucking companies will be allowed to make deliveries anywhere in the United States, and she put no limit on the number of trucks the 100 companies can operate. This is a major step toward Bush's vision of a North American community.
To find out why the Bush administration ignores the comfort and safety of ordinary U.S. drivers, just follow the money. Big corporations are eager to have their made-in-Mexico-by-cheap-labor products delivered in the United States by Mexican drivers, who are paid 33 to 40 percent less than U.S. truckers.
Bush will never face the voters again, but other Republicans will pay the price for his coziness toward Mexico and his elitist disregard for American workers. Even the Wall Street Journal, an enthusiastic supporter of the movement of goods, services and people, legal or illegal, across the U.S.-Mexico border, admits that rising public opinion against the importation of cheap labor "helped propel Democrats to take back Congress in November."
The jobs issue will be even bigger in 2008, and the cost to Republicans even more damaging.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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