A Second Term Highway Stimulus… It Hasn’t Worked So Far, But Let’s Try Again!

In his once off-the-record endorsement interview with Iowa’s Des Moines Register, President Obama ran through a list of his first term “accomplishments” and some of his second term goals.  We take issue with the idea that he’s accomplished anything through infrastructure stimulus dollars in his first term.  But first, let’s talk about the two words that jumped off the page: deferred maintenance.

What does the President mean by deferred maintenance?  Spending – er, investment – in roads, bridges and the like.  The newly release transcript provides the context:

“And finally, using some of the war savings to put people back to work on infrastructure — roads, bridges. We’ve fallen behind in that area. And we can — this deferred maintenance, we can put people to work, back, right now, and at the same time make sure that our economy is more competitive over the long term.” 

Make no mistake; the President is laying the rhetorical groundwork for a second term stimulus centered around infrastructure. 

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Creating an Effective 113th Congress: Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

As we noted last week, the best approach to achieving conservative policy victories in Congress is to have conservative members on influential committees.  That is why it is essential to get good members on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the 113th Congress.  The current composite score for the Republican members of this committee from the Heritage Action scorecard is 66.58%, so there is certainly room for improvement.  With spending on  highways and transit more than $50b per year, conservative members will have a big impact; and even now, planning for the 2014 reauthorization is already underway.

Heritage Action has two primary objectives.   Control spending so that funds are not imprudently diverted away from necessary projects and give states maximum flexibility to set their own transportation priorities. 

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Fueling Decline: Obama’s New Mileage Standards

Thanks to new rules announced today by the Obama administration, the fuel efficiency of our nation’s cars and trucks will double over the next 13 years.  With gas prices once again nearing $4 per gallon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to spin this as a win for consumers:

The Administration’s combined efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. Together, they will save American families more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, resulting in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. For families purchasing a model Year 2025 vehicle, the net savings will be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. 

Even if you trust the EPA’s math (which you shouldn’t), the numbers still don’t add up.  According to an analysis (which has been pulled off the website) by the Center for Automotive Research, stringent mileage standards could add $10,000 to the cost of a new car.

Let’s do some quick math, shall we?  If something costs you $10,000 and saves you $8,000, you are still in the hole for $2,000.  This, President Obama said, would be “good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Nick Loris explains:

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President Obama and Transportation Earmarks

According to the Associated Press, President Obama will give states nearly half a billion dollars to spend on transportation and infrastructure projects. Here’s the kicker:

“The money initially was allocated to the Transportation Department for special projects known as earmarks from 2003 to 2006. The Republican-controlled House has since banned earmarks, which are provisions tucked into bills which direct taxpayer dollars to lawmakers’ pet projects.

“Obama has vowed to veto any bill that includes earmarks and has supported efforts by lawmakers in both parties to permanently ban the practice.

“But the White House official said money awarded by previous Congresses should be spent to improve the nation’s highways, transit systems and ports. Instead of letting the money sit idle, it should be used to put Americans back to work and repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, the official said.”

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The President Only Concerned with Key Constituencies

With so much time being spent golfing, campaigning and fundraising, President Obama has had little time to actually try and affect Congress. When he does, he usually pics a small issue that will have a minimal positive impact but will result in more spending and debt. The issues he chooses to advocate are not random, he picks those issues that will directly benefit a key constituency.

For example, a couple months ago, President Obama was admonishing Congress for potentially allowing student loan interest rates to double. Of course, he did not tell the American people that the reason the rates were going to double was because Democrats had arbitrarily and artificially cut them in half several years ago. The resulting terrible legislation – which was coupled with the transportation bill and a flood insurance bill – cost taxpayers $6 billion (not counting what the transportation and flood insurance parts cost) and only helped a small percentage of Americans.

The President crossed the country making it sound as though any student paying student loans would be able to save tons of money with this bill. The truth is that none of the students who voted for President Obama in 2008 would qualify, as it only applies to new applicants. What’s more, those who do qualify will only save about $7 dollars a month four years from now. But the President didn’t let them know that. He wanted the youth vote, and that’s why he chose this issue.

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