[This is a letter I just sent over to my senators in response to the Inhofe and Bond amendments. Please, especially if you live in California, Missouri, or Oklahoma, contact your senators. This is the moment.]
America has a golden opportunity to build the 21st century infrastructure that we so desperately need — and nowhere more so than in Illinois, the nation’s transportation crossroads. From David Brooks and the Wall Street Journal to The Nation, editorial pages overwhelmingly agree that new infrastructure spending should start America down a more sustainable path, not only jump-starting today’s moribund economy but also reducing energy waste and increasing long-term economic growth.
I was alarmed, then, to hear this morning that recent amendments to the Senate’s economic stimulus legislation will result in America squandering this moment — ant tens of billions in taxpayer dollars — in favor of building vast new roads to nowhere. New amendments advanced by Sen. Inhofe and Sen. Bond would send vast amounts of new cash down the same pathways that got us into our current infrastructure crisis.
Not only would this approach not help fix our woefully inadequate infrastructure, but it would ultimately harm our city, our state, and our nation. It would launch a new round of unsustainable growth — more of the same sprawl and oil dependence that our nation has already wasted trillions of dollars upon. After the countless, painful missed opportunities of the Bush administration, we cannot start a new era by pursuing more (indeed, much more) of the same.
Research shows that investments in mass transit and in repairing existing infrastructure yield greater benefits to the public, and create many more jobs, than building new highways. I urge you to work with your colleagues to ensure that the recovery bill doesn’t become a blank check for new highway construction. Without explicit language prioritizing a fix-it-first approach to infrastructure investment, and by raiding the funds for high-speed rail and the innovative projects we need for the 21st Century, this golden opportunity could go to waste. At this crucial moment, America can’t afford that.
Please work with your colleagues to ensure that new infrastructure dollars first prioritize maintenance and repair, help realize a clean energy future, and create the most job opportunities. Vote against the Bond and Inhofe amendments this week.
I can’t believe that I neglected to mention how stupid the “new car incentive” idea is. America already has more cars than drivers, and supposedly our politicians think we need to buy more new cars? Appalling. The only way I’d support subsidizing new car purchases is through some kind of buyback or feebate, where a stick accompanies the carrot and thereby doubles its fuel-efficiency impact. Buybacks have been part of the auto industry bailout packages in France and Germany.
Wellll, it looks like the “new car incentive” did survive, as sections 1008-1009 in the bill. Buyers of cars and huge SUVs right on up to $49,500 and 8,500 lbs. can deduct interest and sales taxes paid from their income taxes. It’s non-refundable.
Meanwhile, new-car registrations in the US fell by 49% between January 2007 and 2009. America does not want new cars!