A big part of Obama’s latest stimulus bill is supposedly for infrastructure (please read payoffs to unions). But I have to ask why? Why is the federal government in charge of infrastructure? Yes I can see where a federal plan would have been originally required in making sure all the major cities connected to all the major cities and making sure the overall plan made sense. But we have that now. It’s no longer an issue of the headache of getting 50 states to agree to one plan. The plan is already in place. Why is the federal government still in charge?
I mean look at the most obvious example of government control of infrastructure: railroads. Amtrak consistently loses money, consistently had bad service, has no clear plan (for instance why is there an Amtrak station in Flagstaff but not in Phoenix…should a state’s capital and the largest city in the state be an Amtrak stop…sixth largest city in the nation and all). And then of course there is that slight problem about Amtrak safety…granted it’s been a few years since the last major crash but that still has not wiped the old jokes about Amtrak from my mind. “Amtrak, where they don’t post the times of arrival, just the odds.” Or of course there was the time the Onion joked that terrorists demand that the US has a better train system because if they bombed it right now no one would believe it was an act of terrorism.
And if they’re so incompetent at running what should be the most cost and time efficient form of travel we expect them to do a better job with the roads and bridges? Are you kidding? These are the people who wanted to build a bridge to nowhere (yeah and you would have to be a bleeding heart of a liberal to be a governor and defend that pathetic excuse for pork).
How about this?
One, let’s have the government sell all of its shares in Amtrak. We might actually get a decent rail system. Which is actually what I’d like.
Two, I’ve said this before on numerous occasions, but we need national open shop rules. That will cut the costs of most of these operations by at least 50% if not more.
Three, turn all infrastructure repair over to the states (or more local governments).
Four, end the federal tax on gas, currently at 18.4 cents per gallon, but give at least 6 months before it ends so that states can enact laws so that they can collect that same amount (after all if they’re going to be paying for all the infrastructure, they have a right to collect the taxes that are supposed to pay for it).
What will happen? One, you’ll find money will be spent far more efficiently. Having Senators from Hawaii and House members from Vermont vote on infrastructure appropriations for Alaska makes no sense. They don’t know where the actual needs in the system are, they can’t possibly. The country is just too damn big, and no nationwide bureaucracy can either because every division will be arguing its problems are the most needed. But a state is small enough to know (except maybe California and Texas…but you can’t have everything). So instead of pork projects in places no one drives you’ll have the bridges and roads that need work worked on because the people making decisions probably have driven on them.
So more efficient, less waste, less pork and ideally less cost if you put in point 2 (hell the lack of a useless federal bureaucracy will alone will save at least 10% off the top). But there’s another advantage…
What is that you say? Well a lot of the states won’t necessarily want to deal with all that sudden new bureaucracy…so what will they do…they’ll hire private companies to turn all the roads into toll roads and maintain their upkeep. Now some of you may have an aversion to that…but there is no reason to. As has been repeatedly shown when private companies take over the upkeep of freeways and highways by making them toll roads they do it for less, they reduce traffic and accidents, they reduce the time it takes to repair and improve roads at a fraction of the cost and you get higher quality roads. And they make a profit. Yes what a shock the government really doesn’t know how to do anything. And if you eventually start turning all freeways, highways and bridges into privately run toll roads…well the interesting thing is the states won’t need their 18.4 cent per gallon tax and they can either reduce tax (eventually) or shore up all those state budgets (which I want in the short run…right now I don’t really want the price of gas to drop as that would be better for the oil rich nations that support terrorism). (Oh and companies would have to make public bids for these roads so it’s simply who is willing to do it if for the cheapest amount…it’s a lot harder to bribe politicians for kickbacks when you’re judged only on a public bid and not protected by mountains of federal bureaucrats).
All in all, the government should just send everything that has to do with infrastructure and transportation to the states and private companies. Remind me again…why do we need the department of Transportation?