August 10, 2007

Bush To Congress: Prioritize Better

Perhaps George Bush reads the polls over at KSTP. Yesterday he told Reps. James Oberstar (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK) that he would veto any gas-tax increase Congress passes until it reforms the way it appropriates money for transportation:

President Bush said Thursday that he would be opposed to any steps by Congress to increasing the gasoline tax to raise revenues for national bridge repairs in the wake of Minneapolis' bridge collapse.

"Before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities," Bush said, accusing lawmakers of focusing on their own parochial concerns above such national concerns as bridge conditions. ...

The president's comments came in response to an idea proposed by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who said the country has as many as 500 bridges of the same design as the one that collapsed in Minneapolis.

It wasn't just Young. Oberstar, whose pork projects on transportation tend to focus on bike paths, also has called for a tax increase to address potentially failing bridges. Young mentions 500 of these as critical, having the same design as the St. Anthony Bridge. Neither of them nor their colleagues had any concern over this issue in 2005, when they larded down the transportation bill with 6,300 earmarks, including 147 for Minnesota alone -- and none of them apparently addressing failing bridges.

In fact, we can now take a look to see how these two Congressmen voted on anti-pork measures. Oberstar does better than 105 Representatives who got a zero on this RePork Card (84 of them Democrats), with a whopping 2%. Forty-nine times out of 50, Oberstar voted to keep earmarks viable and secret, the exact kind of poor prioritization of which Bush speaks. Don Young didn't do much better, coming in at 6% on anti-pork legislation.

Minnesota has a $2.2 billion annual budget for transportation. We still don't know why the bridge failed. We can't very well start spending money on solutions if we don't understand the cause, and we can't tell whether we allocate enough money for transportation until we know what would have prevented this collapse. We should inspect all of the Warren truss bridges immediately to see if we find any problems, but we don't need a 5-cent gas-tax increase to do $5 million worth of inspections -- and that's doubling the $5,000 average rate for bridge inspections in Minnesota. Let's quit demanding more money for a bad appropriation process until we know what really happened.

UPDATE: Five hundred bridge inspection at $10,000 each is $5 million. Another case of editing through a couple lines of thought and winding up with drivel. Thanks to Bryan for pointing out one of the series of goofs that led to the wrong number.


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Comments (19)

Posted by Tom McGonnell | August 10, 2007 3:49 PM

Words of wisdom! Cut out the pork!

Posted by amr | August 10, 2007 4:09 PM

Being a retired heavy construction field engineer I have been impressed with your logical evaluation of the problem and your response to the usual political rhetoric and emotional pressure for action when we don’t even know the problem. I did disagree with your lack of support for light rail with the new bridge, but that is a side issue and is the only point with which I have had any disagreement. Maybe salt use did play a role after all. Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work.

Posted by Bryan | August 10, 2007 4:10 PM

$50,000 is ten times $5,000, not double, but other than that, good point.

Posted by FedUp | August 10, 2007 4:19 PM

Sad that the answer to a problem (always after the fact) is to throw money at it.. but not 'their' money... they need 'new ' money!

Kick 'em out!

Posted by docjim505 | August 10, 2007 4:52 PM

It would be good for the country if Bush really hit this issue hard. A few press conferences or addresses to the nation about all the pork that's gone into previous transpo bills would certainly shed some disinfecting sunlight on the shameless raids on the treasury that is the appropriations process. Perhaps I'm projecting my own contempt for Congress, but I think that the American people are getting sick and tired of pork barrel and the other shennanigans by which members of Congress plunder the treasury to line their own pockets. A good push from the White House might lead to real reform.

Bush probably hasn't got the stones, but a guy can hope, can't he?

Posted by FedUp | August 10, 2007 6:24 PM

Bush has the opportunity to show some spunk and DocJim has some very good points. The GOP needs an infusion of guts, plus a clear, positive message that they can rally around instead of all the infighting that's going on across the aisle. I believe that too many people are not engaged and are just going to either vote the party line, or for some candidate who makes the correct sound bite.
Educate the masses... and then i woke up!

Posted by Paul in NJ | August 10, 2007 6:44 PM

I have an inconvenient question: Before we talk about raising taxes, wouldn't a responsible discussion include facts like, say, how many billions of dollars are currently raised by state and Federal gas taxes -- and exactly where that money goes?

A number of states claim that they dedicate some or all of their gas taxes to infrastructure, but some states -- NJ is notorious -- routinely raid those 'dedicated' funds for other uses. I wonder if Minnesota does that as well?

How about an accounting before rushing to raise taxes?

Posted by FedUp | August 10, 2007 7:02 PM

So Paul... you're going to interject a logical request into the insanity?

'They' have been budgeting dollars in large amounts for road work, but, somehow, it's be redirected for other things... Now,that there has been a catastrophe, they have to make a lot of noise, flail about, bash Bush and generally make idjits of themselves so that they don't have to answer that question.

Posted by Ray | August 10, 2007 7:45 PM

Oberstar and the rest must be using their new COMCAST phone service when discussing a solution to any problem.

Oberstar: I have an idea, let's raise taxes!

Public: Sir, taxes have been raised enough already this year and throwing more money at the problem won't solve anything. We've told you this several times.

Oberstar: Yes, but now I proposing this over my new COMCAST phone.

Public: You're an idiot.

Posted by burt | August 10, 2007 7:47 PM

It's nice that Bush is getting some conscience concerning spending and apparently getting some backbone about his ability to affect legislation.

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi | August 10, 2007 8:09 PM

I agree with "burt" Where has this President Bush been the last 6+ years?

Memo to all GOP candidates for 2008: It is possible to criticize the Democrats' goofy and dangerous proposals - and not be incinerated by lightning on the spot.

Posted by dhunter | August 10, 2007 8:17 PM

No fed tax for sure. Are the American people dumb enough to sent $1.00 to Washington D.C. to get .25 back? My state will get less than that I bet. Iowa, more miles of roads than anywhere but Texas! Robert KKK Byrds' state will get new Byrd express bike trails. My state they don't use'm anyway. I drive around the bikes or follow slowly, politely behind as they ride on the highway. Ask anyone in favor of the tax if they would put $110.00 of their own money in the bank if they knew they would get only $25.00 back then be told how they could spend it.

Posted by patrick neid | August 10, 2007 9:22 PM

i'm convinced bush and crew read this blog and the comment section.........

Posted by Monkei | August 11, 2007 1:56 AM

One would think that this is this "president's" first year in office ... not his 6th ... he wants Congress to prioritize better ... where was his stuttering, smirking remarks for the last 6 years when he was allowing the building bridges to nowhere and record deficits? Did we sleep walk through those years? Did they never exist before? Are we now led to believe that the drunken sailor mentality of the GOP congress was just a myth?

Can't we speed up the clock and get rid of this national embarassment and nightmare?

Posted by swabjockey05 | August 11, 2007 6:09 AM

I never liked Bush. Too much of a socialist. But I can’t criticize him because I’m afraid (yes afraid) to be lumped with nitwits like Monkey who blame him for the weather.

“If only Jon Cary or Algore were in charge…sigh”

…and in the same vile breath, it bemoans Republican’s spending like drunk sailors…even as its own Dhimmicrat drunks are the ones in control and can barely be held back from throwing our money at “the problem” before they even know what it is…nitwits, crooks and cowards the whole lot.

Posted by kreiz | August 11, 2007 7:16 AM

You're spot on, Ed. The rush to the assume that higher taxes would've averted this calamity is folly- yet, that's exactly where many folks go. Ezra Klein writes: "I argued [to MSNBC's Chris Matthews] that this is why our bridges fall down, that the government needs sufficient revenue to carry out essential tasks, and that I hoped Democrats would raise taxes.." Too often, tax-increasing pols self-congratulate when taxes are raised, feeling that the increase must correlate to a better world. God forbid that we analyze whether a causal relationship in fact exists. It's more about the feeling than the reality.

Posted by Michael Smith | August 11, 2007 7:33 AM

Federal spending on transportation under Bush has gone from $41.5 billion in 2000 to $65.7 billion this year, an increase of 58.3% Nevertheless, the immediate reaction of politicians is that we need a tax increase to solve this problem. I've even heard people blaming the bridge collapse on those nasty Bush tax cuts. Both are thoroughly preposterous notions given the spending increases we've already experienced.

Posted by Artie Curtis | August 11, 2007 7:37 AM

The part about bike paths amused me. A few years ago, one of our main roads was rebuilt and reconfigured and included bike paths. I've yet to see a bicycle on it and I travel it about every day.
Considerable expense to the taxpayers too.

Posted by Rose | August 11, 2007 9:26 AM

As long as they have money for phenomenal pensions for former Congressmen, self-pay increases, money for the ACLU, and for universities with Socialists promoting their criminally political baloney rather than educational interests - like instigating that DIM students harrass and threaten Conservative speakers, so badly they need police security on stage and escorts all over town - to prosecute Border Patrol Agents and Police Officers for doing their jobs and making Mexico unhappy in the process - money for Planned Parenthood, NEA, NPR, and PBS, foreign aid for Communist dictatorships who are NOT our friends, Congressional hearings for the RECONQUISTAS to tell Dims what American/Mexico policy should be, money for homosexual sex education, illegal alien "ENTITLEMENT" programs, the UN, Environmental WHACKO and ANIMAL RIGHTS programs that do not improve the life of American citizens - but tax the dickens out of us MERELY TO FUND THEIR NUTTY ORGANIZATIONS to promote LIES in the promotion of Socialist government policies, and a million other trivial blood-sucking taxation gathering and spending pieces of garbage ...

... they do NOT need one new penny for BRIDGES - THEY NEED A NEW PERSPECTIVE, and a new list of priorities.

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