Sunday, July 22, 2012

Biden and LaHood: Laurel and Hardy

Which came first, the Biden or the Hood? Back in February of 2011, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood came together to announce the administration's plans to spend billions of dollars--$53 billion, actually--on high-speed commuter rail systems. Here's the White House on the subject:
“As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” said Vice President Biden. “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.”  
The $8 billion investment in high-speed rail the President is proposing just for next year will help revitalize the domestic rail industry, as well as foster innovation and job creation by connecting major population centers. Strong Buy American requirements will create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs in construction, manufacturing, and rail operations.
So, where are those "ten of thousands of jobs"? How revitalized is the domestic rail industry? Anyone taken a train for the first time recently? Here's Ray LaHood's blog entry--mentioned above--on the matter:
In his State of the Union address two weeks ago, President Obama reminded us that to win the future, we must dream big and build big. To secure long-term economic prosperity for future generations, we must--once again--build the best roadways, railways, and runways in the world... 
Other communities we'll visit this week include Daytona Beach, Dayton, Fort Pierce, Cleveland, and Wichita. In these cities, we'll see exciting projects building new roadways and reconstructing others; creating intermodal terminals and upgrading transit stations; and stimulating expanded manufacturing in general aviation. 
In all of these locations, Americans can see the federal government in partnership with states, communities, and private businesses to invest in tomorrow while creating jobs today. 
That's what happens when we out-build the rest of the world. That's what happens when we set out to win the future.
So let's be clear here, the Administration--through Biden and LaHood--is touting this big infrastructure building project as key to growing the economy, to creating jobs, in "securing long-term prosperity." Got it? Build big and things fall into place. He who builds the biggest controls the future (and yes, this all plays into the ideological argument I outlined previously). Does it seem like I'm overstating things, that I'm going too far in suggesting that just building infrastructure is all that matters in their minds? Well, consider David Harsanyi's take on Ray La Hood:
In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to meet cabinet members, governors, senators and even a few presidential candidates, but, honestly, I’ve never met anyone less impressive at the higher levels of government than LaHood. When I listened to him claim that commercial flying was a perilous mode of transportation, heard him say that bullet trains would soon replace cars and claim that building more bike lanes would solve the congestion problems in major cities … well, how can I put this: giving someone this silly a cabinet position should be an impeachable offense.
That was from early this month. What set Harsanyi off on this rant was LaHood's open admiration of authoritarianism--in the form of the Chinese government--because of it's effectiveness in building infrastructure. Forget LaHood's stupidity in praising authoritarianism. Consider instead his complete break with historical reality. The Soviets were pretty good at huge public works projects, as well. The problem is, such projects--mandated by fiat, based on the opinions of a few--may or may not yield positive results. Because the few that decide the construction is a good idea are often politicians or bureaucrats who have no idea if a given project is really a good idea.

LaHood's historical ineptitude is characteristic of the man he shared the stage with in February of last year: Joe Biden. Remember this classic Biden gaffe:

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"
FDR, of course, wasn't President when the stock market crashed (in 1929). And even had he been, he wouldn't have gotten on television to explain things, since almost no one had a television then.

And apparently, LaHood continues to learn from the master. At the same Aspen Idea Festival where LaHood praised authoritarianism, he also said this, in speaking about how the improved CAFE standards enacted by the Administration (for 2025) have led to hybrids being offered by car manufacturers:
When you see now a Lexus hybrid, no one would have ever predicted that 2 years ago. Every car manufacturer is getting into hybrid. I think we jump started those opportunities.
Two years ago would be 2010. As the above piece notes, the first Lexus hybrid premiered in 2004, an SUV. A Lexus hybrid sedan followed in 2006. Anyone predicting--in 2010--that a Lexus hybrid would be available by 2012 would have to be a stone-cold idiot.

These are the men that lead us, who are tasked with "winning the future." Sobering, no?

Cheers, all.

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