The insanity of Wisconsin GOP Gov Scott Walker and Ohio GOP Gov John Kasich giving away federal money ($810 million from Wisconsin and $385 million from Ohio) will reverberate for years as the resulting labor-intensive projects would have provided badly needed jobs and begun a regional transit policy.
Dreams of launching an economic corridor among Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago are now the nightmare of Republican rule as House Republicans take the torch.
Many felt that Wisconsin Gov. Walker really wasn’t that crazy to give away $810 million and all of those construction jobs, campaigning aside. But here we are with the GOP trying to explain transportation infrastructure policy; they’re off to a clumsy start.
One suspects the GOP doesn’t know what a regional transit policy is and has only a vague idea of the function of infrastructure.
Listening to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) talk about infrastructure is like listening to a Tea Partier lecture on the dynamics of biological evolution.
But the House GOP cannot govern on banal talking points. And the entertainment value of Cantor’s fiscal non sequiturs does not off-set the catastrophic damage they can inflict onto American society.
One area the Republican party’s anti-spending crusade puts them in a bind is infrastructure spending. Repairing roads and bridges, modernization, etc. have historically been bipartisan priorities — but they’ve also always cost a lot of money.
Ask Republicans whether they want to include transportation infrastructure in their calls for broad spending cuts, and you don’t get a very specific answer.
“We’ve got to learn how to prioritize and do more with less in all areas of government,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at his weekly press conference today. “It just is what it is. In the terms of transportation, we’ve got to figure out ways how to leverage dollars, how to come up with innovative ways to address the nation’s ailing transportation infrastructure.”
There’s a reason for that. Ask instead how they propose to upgrade the country’s transportation infrastructure without new spending, and it turns out there’s no simple answer.
“I don’t think anybody would tell you that our nation’s transportation infrastructure is in a state of existence that we would accept,” Cantor admitted.
We’ve got the aviation industry that, you know, anybody trying to fly in and out of the tri-state airports up there in New York? No. When that area gets clogged up, the whole nation, practically, is delayed. Something needs to be done in that arena trying to bring us into the new digital age here, in terms of those issues. But you look at the bridges in disrepair. The highways — certainly, for sure, we’ve got to be able to address those. There are things that are occurring at the state level, some innovative ways to approach the need for financing. But at the end of the day we’ve got to look to see where the tax revenues are being spent, what they’re being spent on, are the priorities what the American people expect. But this is the kind of analysis that’s got to be undertaken. And it’s going to take work. It’s not some easy answer: just spend more. I mean, again, this is what the American people are tired of, this response, we just need to spend because there’s no other answer. That’s not good enough, because the money’s not there, we don’t have the money.This is a real fix.
On the one hand, the Republicans banned earmarks, so individual members now have less capacity to direct federal dollars to these sorts of projects than they used to have. On the other hand, they also want to diminish the executive branch’s resources, making it less able to tackle these problems alone. That means more and more crumbling roads, more and more unhappy voters, more and more demands from local governments and constituents for Congress to do something about it. But without the will to tax and spend, they can’t.
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