Remember President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus program? Obama defended that unprecedented spending spree, which included legions of allegedly “shovel-ready” transportation projects, by promising the explosion of government outlays would jump-start the economy.
But after “investing” billions of borrowed dollars in transportation just two years ago, why is Obama now asking for an 84 percent increase over 2010 levels in the Department of Transportation’s budget? As Ronald Utt of the Heritage Foundation pointed out in The Washington Examiner, the president included a $48.1 billion spending increase for the department in his 2012 budget proposal.
If Obama has his way, Utt calculated, transportation outlays will increase more than 10 times faster than all other federal spending. The man Obama appointed in 2009 to manage the Department of Transportation is former Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood, who a few months ago promised to put cars and bicycles on “an equal footing” in federal funding decisions.
In an October interview, LaHood denigrated the “traditional people in Congress who like the idea that we continue to build roads and bridges and things like that,” as opposed to the “big things” he and Obama support, including enormously expensive forms of government-subsidized mass transit. LaHood has become an outspoken proponent of what rabid environmentalists misleadingly call “livability.”
That’s a rhetorical device used by Democratic officials and political activists, along with liberals in the mainstream media, to justify using government funding to force people now living in the suburbs to move back into densely packed central cities where they would have to depend upon mass transit rather than privately owned vehicles. While that might not seem like such a big difference, it is only cars that enable people to go where they choose when they choose. With mass transit, government decides for you where and when you go.
A prime example of the livability fantasy is the Dulles Rail project now under construction in Northern Virginia. The federal government is spending $900 million for Phase 1 of a Metrorail extension that even the Federal Transit Administration admits will attract only 10,000 new daily transit riders and will have virtually no impact on the area’s notorious traffic congestion.
As Utt pointed out, federal transportation programs can become political slush funds used by professional politicians to reward unionized labor, which jacks up the costs of rail and other construction projects by almost 10 percent. Also, policies that reduce Americans’ mobility dramatically shrink their access to new job opportunities, which is crucial to wealth production in a dynamic economy.
Mobility equals freedom, but under the administration’s latest transportation proposal, taxpayers will pay more for less of both.