Overdrive Extra

James Jaillet

LaHood’s right — Sequester’s dumb, and we’re doing nothing for our kids

| March 04, 2013

interstate highwayIt couldn’t have been said better, unless he added an expletive.

We reported last week on outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s address to the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, in which, near the end, he makes a plea for bipartisanship for both long-term and short-term gain.

LaHood spoke two days before the sequester — automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to the federal budget — began. That is, unless Congress acted first to get a bill to President Barack Obama to prevent them from occurring.

Congress didn’t, and what we’re left with is, well, dumb.

LaHood said it in his address, as bluntly as he could, “Sequester is a dumb idea.” It didn’t have any fire behind it. It wasn’t meant as a barb toward either major political party. It was as declarative as it could have been. Mellowly declarative, in fact.

And he’s right, sequester is dumb. It was designed to be that way to reach a deal in 2011 to resolve the debt ceiling battle between House Republicans (and some members of the Tea Party) — who were steadfastly not going to raise the debt ceiling — and a Democratic Senate and president.

The cuts were designed to be so dumb, in fact, that surely Congress could come up with something — anything — in a year and a half to replace them.

It didn’t — Jan. 1 was the original date for the cuts set to take place, coupled with across-the-board tax increases — and they even gave themselves two additional months in early January by reaching a deal to avoid the tax increases while punting on the budget cuts.

March 1 was the new date, and, surely, we all thought, that with an additional 60 days a deal could be reached.

It wasn’t. And “dumb” is what we’re left with. There’s no better way to put it.

More than pointing out the obvious on sequestration, though, LaHood made a challenge to AASHTO, and it’s one we should all take to heart: “We must put aside our differences and give our kids and our grandkids a country that’s better than the one we left. We inherited the interstate system, thanks to generations of people with foresight. What are we going to leave the next generation?”

We were left much — very, very much — by the generations before us, and all we’re doing to fulfill our obligations to the generations after us is coming up with dumb cuts, kicking cans down a street and squabbling like children over budget policy.

Do you think there’s any way we could accomplish something like building an Interstate system with the political climate that’s been created the last 10 years?

There’s absolutely no way. And that’s why we should take seriously LaHood’s challenge. No matter your views on him and his time as transportation secretary, it’s hard to argue that our goal should be to leave this place better than we left it.

At the rate we’re going, we’re not even going to leave it as good as we found it. We’re also going to be a laughing stock to our children and their children. The generation that inherited great advancements in transportation — like the Interstate system — and failed to not only build upon them but even bother enough to take care of them.

That’s not the case yet, but we need to make sure it never is. Interstates allowed trucking to thrive, to overtake rail as the best form of moving goods around the country. We need to take care of them, and we need to build upon them.

Blindly slashing a budget is dumb. More than that, it sets us back and prevents us from taking care of ourselves and our future. Congress should be ashamed it let it happen.

And we should remember in 2014.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffery.headley Jeffery Headley

    Congress is not the only ones to blame for this the President has to take as much blame if not more. Something else I have to say is where is all the bitching and moaning from you guy about the high price of fuel, we sure herd enough when George Bush was in office and fuel was never as high as it is now..

  • Bill Gatchell

    What a partisan point of view from this writer! No doubt a low information voter that voted for Obama–no doubt in my mind. To blame congress without mentioning the fact that this sequester idea was born in the Obama administration shows the authors ignorance of basic facts surrounding this action. Obama was given an option by Senate & House Republicans to NOT have across the board spending cuts but be given authority to make the same dollar cuts but targeted so as to not cause furloughs & such but Obama promised to veto any such bill.

    Overdriveonline often presents great fact filled articles that I enjoy but this one had very little “facts”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregg-Kava/100000221291819 Gregg Kava

    BS this is exactly what we need. We have to cut spending and reduce the size of government. This thank God forced a start to the process and now the Republicans need to continue to turn up the heat to have it continue. First on the list, cut Michelle’s gov’t credit card up, nobody elected her and I don’t see why we have to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on her.

  • Terry Massey

    I disagree with the writer, Obama is doing all he can to destroy the free enterprise system that built this country. We MUST stop the out of control spending and WASTE from the gov. I hate that the sequester had to happen but it is just a small step to a much larger problem. I’m not real happy with any of our gov. right now on either side but I am greatly opposed to the current administrations handling of the nations airfares. Just for the record, I don’t care what color he is either, if I thought he was good I would support him. What can we expect from somebody who has never had a job that required a profit to continue, the gov. can NOT spend us into prosperity. We borrow 46 cents of every dollar spent, then pay interest on the note. That math will never take care of our kids or the country down the road. Drive safe and pray for God’s mercy on us a country who’s leaders and people have gone far astray.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ken.nilsen Ken Nilsen

    Remember this, it was LaHood who allowed light rail, city buses, and other local transportation needs to tap the federal funds for highways. You the writer of this article need to learn a little history. We add to the interstate system every year, nothing has been cut, in fact we add excess capacity where it is not needed just to line a local union boss’s pocket. It is time to cut the waste and we should start with the budget of the DOT. Slash every executive’s pay in half immediately. If it is not a federal interstate commerce need it gets NO federal funding.

  • localnet

    Who is the author of this tripe? The sequester is nothing more than cuts to future automatic budget increases. So, instead of the automatic annual 10% budgetary increase the DOT gets every year like clockwork, whether they need it or not, they will now get a budget increase of 8% to spend this year. They get all of the money they spent last year, plus an 8% (instead of a 10%) budget increase. The sequester is a cut to budgetory increases, there are no “real” budget cuts.

    This is called baseline budgeting, and if me and you ran our affairs like this we would either be bankrupt or in prison. Understand how this works YET? There are no spending cuts. In fact, we are on track to spend 15 billion dollars more this fiscal year, 2013, than we did in fiscal year 2012.

    Someone may want to take Mr. Jaillet out back and give him a little schooling in journalism, as this hit piece, or White House talking point, is not worthy to line a bird cage.

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