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Government Is One Big Traffic Jam

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Late Sunday night, my wife and I drove from Sacramento, Calif., to Los Angeles. We figured that it would be wise to leave Sacramento in the early evening to avoid traffic. At 7 p.m., we climbed into the car and headed for Interstate 5, the major highway connecting Northern California and Southern California.

For the first five hours of the drive, things went as planned. The highway was relatively clear, and we sailed along happily at 80 mph.

Then we saw it. A sign. A large orange sign reading: Freeway Closed Ahead, 11 p.m.-4 a.m.

It was too late to get off the freeway; it was too late to turn around. There were no turnoffs, no exits, no restrooms. We were stuck an hour from Los Angeles, bumper-to-bumper, moving less than 1 mph. Literally. During the next three hours, we moved a grand total of 1.6 miles. Families were pulling onto the shoulders of the highway to catch some winks. One creative fellow actually attempted to drive off the freeway by cutting through some wire separating the freeway from an adjacent road. The cops immediately arrested him.

Three hours is a very long time to sit in traffic, particularly when your radio is broken. My wife was nodding off, so there wasn't much in the way of conversation.

So as the red lights of stopped cars twinkled far into the distance, I began to understand road rage. As I drove, at the pace of a turtle, past signs notifying me, "Traffic Slow Ahead," steam began to emerge from my ears. By the looks of the other drivers, I wasn't alone.

One thought kept running through my head: The government is completely incompetent.

I assume there were liberals in the traffic jam; after all, this is California, where liberals dominate both the halls of government and the voting rolls. And I wondered what those liberals thought of the government's handling of road repair. I wondered whether they smiled at the idea that they were paying the state of California up to 10.3 percent of their income. I wondered whether they were glad that the state of California allocates more than $13.8 billion to the California Department of Transportation each year, paying 22,000 full-time employees -- and that not one of those employees had the common sense to post signs notifying drivers to take another route.

And I mused about broader questions. I wondered why the liberals in the crowd hadn't considered that if the government can't handle paving roads, it certainly shouldn't handle the health care system. I wondered why liberals never stopped to think that perhaps the government isn't built to stop purported global warming; this little traffic jam alone was burning carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an enormous rate. I wondered why liberals believe that the people best qualified to handle the education, Social Security and welfare systems are the same folks who left the office at 4:59 p.m. last Friday thinking that they had done a good job with construction on the I-5.

Most of all, I wondered why liberals are so worshipful of government in the face of all available evidence. If this had been a private toll road, you can bet that customers would have been notified upfront of the major delay. But because the government is free to tax and spend as it chooses, there is no incentive to treat drivers decently.

The same holds true more generally. Private industry has a stake in efficiency and customer service. The public sector has no such stake.

Here's the most ironic fact: As we drove by the construction area at 3:30 a.m., we didn't see a single construction worker. The delay accomplished nothing, other than the illusion of improvement. But that's what the government traffics in: illusions of solutions. Which is why my wife and I reached our home at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning, tired and grumpy, our gas tank empty and our patience gone. May all liberals sit through such traffic before they vote big-government Democrats back into office.

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