Right Thinking From The Left Coast
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Hair of the Dog That Bankrupted You

They just don’t fucking learn, do they?

President Obama, looking for ways to jump-start the sagging economy and create new jobs, called on Congress on Monday to approve a far-reaching plan to rebuild and modernize the nation’s transportation networks — roads, rail and airport runways — over the next six years.

With Democrats facing increasingly bleak re-election prospects, Mr. Obama used a Labor Day visit to a union festival here to lay out the plan, which the White House says could begin creating jobs as early as 2011 if Congress moves quickly. But prospects for a hasty passage seem unlikely, given that lawmakers have only a few weeks before they go home to campaign and Republicans have little interest in giving Democrats any pre-election legislative victories.

$50 billion is going to be the cost of this.  I know it’s become cannon that our roads in a state of disrepair.  But Reason disagrees with this. Their study evaluated the state of our roads and found they are the best they’ve been in twenty years.  Yeah, I know, Reason is an evil Koch-funded libertarian organization.  But if the explosion of highway spending under the last few Congresses didn’t fix our roads, why should another $50 billion do the trick?  What is their logic: we burned up hundreds of billions and didn’t fix the roads; give us $50 billion more?

One sign of progress: they’re at least giving lip service to fiscal responsibility:

The administration said it would work with Congress to find ways to pay for the plan so that it would not add to the nation’s rising deficit. The White House is proposing to cut tax breaks and existing subsidies for oil and gas exploration and production as one way to pay for the plan, but officials said Mr. Obama is open to other ideas. Historically, transportation projects have been paid for largely with dedicated taxes like those on gasoline.

Here’s an idea, why don’t we eliminate the tax breaks and subsidies and just apply that to deficit reduction?  I see no reason to give such breaks to multi-billion dollar industries.

Mr. Obama also called for what the White House is describing as an “infrastructure bank” that would focus on paying for national and regional transportation projects by pooling private money with public investment. He said the bank would eliminate a patchwork system in which transportation projects are financed through Congressional earmarks rather than based on merit.

This isn’t such a bad idea, actually.  But why don’t we try this out before we massively increase spending.  If federal transportation spending is as inefficient as Obama claims—and I’m sure it is—let’s fix the system first.  Then we can trust them with more money.

(This is the exact same argument, incidentally, that was used in healthcare reform:  1) Medicare wastes lots of money; 2) we can cut that waste; 3) let’s go ahead and expand the wasteful federal healthcare system and spend those savings before we show that they can actually be achieved.)

Yeah, it’s Labor Day.  Obama has to toss a bone to the unions who build our roads or the people who at least get union wages thanks to Davis-Bacon.  But you’d think with a growing outcry over federal spending, he’d get a damned clue and stop digging the political hole deeper.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/06/10 at 02:06 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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