Mitch McConnell Has A Bridge To Sell You, And Kentuckians Aren’t Buying

Isaiah J. Poole

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has a bridge he’s trying to sell Kentuckians, and a poll released Friday says that by an overwhelming margin state residents aren’t buying it.

More precisely, what McConnell is trying to sell is a way to pay for an overhaul of a crucial bridge that connects the town of Covington, Ky. with Cincinnati, Ohio. The Brent Spence bridge happens to be a major trucking route connecting midwestern and southern cities; it is estimated that about 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product crosses that bridge annually. It is also “structurally obsolete,” handing more than twice the traffic it was designed for.

McConnell thinks the best way to help pay for a $2.7 billion bridge rebuilding is to stiff the workers who would do the work. He is running for reelection against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who argues that the best way to pay for upgrading the bridge is to close tax loopholes used by big corporations – in particular, the very corporations that depend on that bridge and others like it to ship their goods and move their workers.

Public Policy Polling put that choice before 682 Kentucky voters on behalf of the Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund, and the result was no contest: The Grimes position was favored by 62 percent of those polled; the McConnell position was supported by only 10 percent of voters. (The remaining 27 percent said they were “not sure.”)

McConnell has proposed lifting requirements that contractors pay workers prevailing wages for their work. Prevailing wage laws prevent companies bidding on government contracts from pursuing a race to the bottom on wages as the primary tool for underbidding competitors. They also ensure that infrastructure jobs created with taxpayer dollars are closer to living-wage jobs rather than poverty jobs.

Taxpayers actually lose when wages on government-funded projects are so low that the workers have to depend on government subsidy programs, such as food assistance, to make ends meet. And yet, eliminating prevailing wage safeguards has been the go-to solution for conservatives who claim that a key reason America has such a woefully inadequate transportation network is that the front-line workers who do the hard work on our roads, bridges and public transportation work earn too much money.

The poll also found that “by an almost six-to-one margin, 80 percent to 14 percent, voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to close loopholes to make sure millionaires do not pay a lower tax rate than the middle class, including 87 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of independents.”

The poll shows an overwhelming mandate for ending tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and engage in schemes to hide their profits in overseas tax havens. As the poll shows, that is a winning issue that is helping Grimes to pull slightly ahead of McConnell in the PPP poll. “Kentuckians clearly prefer a Senate candidate who will close corporate tax loopholes and end tax breaks for the wealthy,” said Tom Jensen, PPP polling director. “These issues are as important to them, if not more important, than issues currently being debated in the campaign. The poll suggests that tax fairness could be a sleeper issue in this race.”

That’s especially true when voters are presented with a choice that means less in the pockets of working people and more in the pockets of tax-evading wealthy people and corporations.

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