The Case Against Obama's Transportation Plan

| by Nik Bonopartis
National Highway SystemNational Highway System

"Not enough!"

That's what the country's well-paid toll collectors -- some of whom earn more than $100,000 a year, according to the New York Post -- should say to drivers as they pass, forking over $14 to cross spans like the George Washington Bridge, or up to $72 for the privilege of driving certain stretches of Midwest highway.

Not enough!

That's why President Barack Obama's self-styled "bold" new transportation plan calls for a new tax -- an additional $10 a barrel on oil -- to pay for pie-in-the-sky improvements to America's transportation system.

The U.S. already has what's called the Highway Trust Fund, and the federal government already taxes Americans about 50 cents per gallon of fuel on average -- to the tune of about $50 billion a year, in addition to the billions generated by road tolls. Yet Obama wants to permanently levy a new tax on oil barrels, so Americans can pay taxes on fuel before they pay taxes on fuel.

While introducing this genius idea in early February, Obama compared his effort to that of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president who established the Interstate Highway System in 1956, creating what was then the most modern and efficient highway system in the world.

There's just one problem with that comparison: Eisenhower's plan was concrete, while Obama's is not.

Eisenhower's plan employed engineers, planners, municipal experts and construction crews to build a real highway system connecting American states, cities and major military bases. Obama's plan -- which costs about the same as Eisenhower's in adjusted dollars -- would fund research, and try to entice private companies to develop cleaner transportation alternatives.

Eisenhower's plan gave Americans roads to drive on. Obama's plan is to throw money in different directions, hoping something sticks while Americans miraculously develop an affinity for self-driving cars and mass transportation.

Eisenhower was concerned with putting Americans to work, and boosting the American economy over the long term by making it easier to move goods across the country. Obama is concerned with climate change, trying to have his cake and eat it too by making his plan about modernizing the American transportation system and clean transportation.

"The President’s plan would increase American investments in clean transportation infrastructure by roughly 50 percent while reforming the investments we already make to help reduce carbon pollution, cut oil consumption, and create new jobs," a White House announcement on the plan reads. "The new fee on oil will also encourage American innovation and leadership in clean technologies to help reshape our transportation landscape for the decades ahead."

When it comes to infrastructure, there's one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on -- the country's crumbling roads and bridges are badly in need of repair. There are 63,000 structurally compromised bridges across the country, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Vast stretches of highway are run down, and individual states like Texas, California, New York and North Carolina have annual shortfalls in the billions when it comes to highway maintenance budgets.

But if the federal government is going to spend almost half a trillion on a new transportation plan, as The Hill reports, that money should be spent directly on much-needed repairs and improvements, not thrown at companies researching self-driving cars, or private firms conducting feasibility studies on high-speed rail lines.

Lawmakers should reject Obama's transportation plan with a firm message: Less hot air, more concrete.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Global Trade Magazine, The White House, The Hill (2), Federal Highway Administration, New York Post,, McClatchy / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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