Skip to main content

Backward is a word that applies to about 99 percent of the GOP agenda. Whether it's dismantling the programs of the New Deal and Great Society, seeking to overturn precedent-setting rulings like Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut or standing firmly in favor of keeping a steady flow of industrial poisons into the biosphere, modern-day Republicans seem charmed by the "good ol' days," which were anything but. The transportation bill they've crafted in the House of Representatives—HR 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act—is a stunning example of this retrograde thinking, a pricey package of brain-numbingly bad ideas. Well, it would be stunning, if it weren't so typical. The bill has received a boatload of criticism from coast to coast in newspaper editorials and from citizens and business groups.

At $260 billion, the bill represents a 9 percent cut from the last transportation spending package, which expired in 2009. Since then, projects have been funded by short-term extensions.

So, what's not to like about a bill that Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has labeled "the most partisan" and "worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service":

“And it also is the most anti-safety bill I have ever seen. It hollows out our No. 1 priority, which is safety, and frankly, it hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we’ve been about for the last three years.”
What's specifically wrong with this five-year monstrosity? Here are just a few things:

• A 25 percent cut in subsidies for Amtrak, the government-owned National Railroad Passenger Corporation. The GOP has sought to derail Amtrak from the minute it came into existence 41 years ago. It was created in the first place because passenger rail service continues to be needed but private operations couldn't meet that need. Its ridership has constantly grown. Amtrak ought to be expanded and modernized, not cut back.

• End dedicated funding of mass transit with 20 percent of the revenues from the federal gasoline tax, a practice that's been going on since 1982. In 2010, the take amounted to $40 billion, with $32 billion for roads and bridges, and $8 billion for mass transit and other programs. Under HR7, mass transit in the five-year bill would be paid for by a one-time appropriation, funding source unknown. And then ... who knows? It would simply compete with other programs. That means no secure funding source for everything from light rail to bike paths. Programs like "Safe Routes to School" and various efforts to ease congestion and improve air quality could be eliminated in the competition.

• Bar funding for California's proposed high-speed rail system. Although that system has run into a number of other roadblocks and legitimate concern about cost overruns, cutting out additional federal funding for the next five years is more backward thinking.

• Cover the growing annual shortfall in gasoline tax revenue with revenue derived from royalties on wide-open drilling on additional public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and in most off-shore areas of the Pacific and Atlantic now barred for good reasons from oil and gas exploration. Even if such drilling were allowed, an outrageously stupid idea, the projected shortfall is far more than what could be expected in government revenues.

• Weaken environmental reviews of highway projects by setting arbitrary deadlines for their completion and turning over authority of whether they should even be done to state agencies.

• Allow longer and far heavier trucks.

• Exempt some already underpaid transportation workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act, a 74-year-old law that guarantees basic worker rights. This would allow a few companies to get away without paying overtime to drivers.

The United States needs a far-sighted transportation bill. And it had one in President Obama's six-year plan introduced a year ago, with its emphasis on high-speed rail and an infrastructure bank. A key element of that transportation plan is to get off the roads-only approach favored by the backward-looking Republicans and those Democrats who would rather bring home the bacon than figure out whose pig is being cooked by this relentless myopia.

•••  •••  •••

For an alternative, see my Think Big: Transportation overhaul would save money, create jobs, cut pollution, burn less oil.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site