More than three years ago, I wrote that the Department of Transportation should be dismantled for the simple reason that we’ll get better roads at lower cost with the federalist approach of returning responsibility to state and local governments.
I echoed those sentiments in this CNBC interview.
Since there’s only an opportunity to exchange soundbites in these interviews, let me elaborate on some of the reasons why transportation should be a state and local responsibility.
1. Washington involvement is a recipe for pork and corruption. Lawmakers in Congress – including Republicans – get on the Transportation Committees precisely because they can buy votes and raise campaign cash by diverting taxpayer money to friends and cronies.
2. Washington involvement in transportation is just the tip of the iceberg. As I said in the interview, the federal budget is mostly a scam where endless streams of money are shifted back and forth in leaky buckets. This scam is great for insiders and bad news for taxpayers.
3. Washington involvement necessarily means another layer of costly bureaucracy. And this is not a trivial issues since the Department of Transportation is infamous for overpaid bureaucrats.
4. Washington involvement gives state and local politicians an excuse to duck responsibility for low-quality infrastructure. Why make adult decisions, after all, when you can shift the blame to DC for not providing enough handouts.
While I think I made some decent points in the interview, I should have addressed the assertion that our infrastructure is falling apart. My colleague at the Cato Institute, Chris Edwards, effectively dealt with this scare tactic in his recent Congressional testimony.
I also should have pointed out that a big chunk of the gas tax is diverted to boondoggle mass transit projects.
Last but not least, I’m disappointed that I failed to connect some very important dots. Gov. Rendell and the CNBC host both fretted that the current system isn’t producing a desirable outcome, but they’re the ones advocating for a continuation of the status quo! Heck, they want even more of the system that they admit doesn’t work.
P.S. While I obviously want to get rid of the Department of Transportation, it’s not at the top of my list for the most wasteful and counterproductive federal bureaucracy.
P.P.S. On a completely separate topic, I can’t resist sharing this Ramirez cartoon.
And since we’re making fun of our Statist-in-Chief, here’s some satire about the award Obama received from Steven Spielberg.