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What will Romney do with transportation policy?
By Terri Hall
October 21, 2012
When it comes to political candidates, the axiom ‘you are what you eat’ can be tweaked to -- ‘you are who you surround yourself with.’ According to Politico, presidential candidate Mitt Romney is gettin’ cozy with former Bush transportation staff who are shaping the former governor of Massachusetts’ future road policy.
What advice is he getting?
Forget addressing the gas tax or finding an affordable way to sustain public roads and keep the program financially solvent, just keep relying on tolling and public private partnerships.
First, let’s look at how well this policy has worked under George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Our nation’s highway program is no longer financially solvent. We no longer collect enough federal gas tax to even maintain the current system. Rather than address the problem - of either spending or revenues (perhaps both) - our leaders continue to borrow money we don’t have and outsource the tax increase to state and local government -- or worse, to private toll operators.
Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said it best, that having financial institutions that are too big to fail are "too dangerous to permit." He reveals that half of the banking industry’s assets are concentrated into five institutions. If one falters, it puts the entire industry, or in some cases, the entire economy at risk of collapse and sets-up yet another taxpayer bailout. Fisher doesn’t mince words and warns this incurs "the wrath of ordinary citizens and smaller entities that resent this favorable treatment, and we plant the seeds of social unrest."
To Romney’s credit, he noted during the first debate that Dodd-Frank essentially means big banks are guaranteed by the federal government calling it the “the biggest kiss that’s been given to -- to New York banks I’ve ever seen.” But among those advising Romney on transportation include James Ray, former counsel at the Department of Transportation (DOT) who enthusiastically endorses P3s and acknowledges public private partnerships are a marriage of the corporation with the state.
If that’s the philosophy of his advisers, transportation policy that gives special treatment to a select few toll consortiums and P3 contracts where taxpayers back-stop and subsidize toll projects will follow, creating a cottage industry that’ll be deemed ‘too big to fail.’ Also among Romney advisers is Tyler Duvall, a chief Bush policymaker at the DOT. Duvall’s brainchild was tolling and congestion pricing --hiking tolls in real time to knock cars off the road to maintain certain speeds on tollways.
None of this bodes well for taxpayers. Columnist George Will suggests Romney hire Fisher to advise him on how to reform the ‘too big to maintain’ bailout policies in Washington, but that’s not gonna happen on transportation with the current crop of pro-toll, pro-P3 Bushies surrounding him. So at the moment, it looks like there’s no hope for change on transportation policy on November 6, no matter which guy wins.