Monday, August 20, 2007

Does Jim Oberstar Know Best ?

Quick, how many of you recall the 50’s television program Father Knows Best ?

Well, not only is that a question but the series was actually based on the question: Does Father really know what is best ? Yes, Jim Anderson could not only lose his temper, but occasionally be wrong.

If Jim Anderson could be wrong, could Jim Oberstar also be wrong ? Not according to Oberstar when it comes to who knows best about transportation funding.

On Sunday, CSPAN Newsmaker program, link , Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Transportation Committee, Chairman was interviewed by John Hughes, Bloomberg News, Transportation Reporter & Kevin Diaz, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Washington Correspondent.

Diaz had previously reported that Oberstar plans to offer a temporary 5-cent-a-gallon gas tax for a national reconstruction program. Diaz speculates that this could be a campaign issue that some such as freshman Democrat Tim Walz may not want to have to vote on due to the higher taxes. (Personally, I find that speculation unprofessional … either get a quote as Diaz did from Ramsted but don’t take a quote from the executive director Club for Growth and imply that is Walz’s position.)

Oberstar correctly argued that the gas tax is a pure user tax. Yet, Norm (TaxCut and Spend) Coleman says ”I'm not yet prepared to accept a gas tax increase as the solution" and backs Bush’s assertion that it is a matter of priority.

In this case, both Oberstar’s user fee and Coleman’s prioritization makes sense.
Many Republicans embrace the idea of a Consumption-Based Taxes, so is Coleman’s reluctance that he does not want to actually vote for a tax increase … especially in a pre-election year ?
Where Oberstar fails is his impassioned defense of earmarks. He stated that Congress has a better idea on where the monies should be spent than individual state's Department of Transportation. That is a problem. A Congressman should consult with the state’s DOT and ensure that their needs are addressed. When the Congressman and the DOT disagree, there needs to be input from the state Legislature. The SAFETEA-LU 2005 legislation includes funding that Minnesota’s DOT did not rate as a high priority …that’s wrong. The complaints concerning the Alaska Bridge to Nowhere were expressed loud and clear by fiscal conservatives and the Main Stream Media … but they still got in the final bill. But that doesn’t mean that the monies are being spent … just last week officials of Lee County Florida turned down $10million for a project they did not want.

Recent polls indicate that Congressional performance is unsatisfactory in the voters mind. There were a number of reasons why Democrats defeated Republicans in 2006 … and corruption and earmarks were at the top of the list.

Congressman Oberstar, in this instance, you don’t know best. Blindly accepting the earmark system does not make sense. Yes, earmarks can be purposeful. They need to be discussed with state DOT and represent fairness in allocating the monies based on the America’s needs.


Apollo said...

I was really hoping that new Democratic majorities would be able to reduce earmarks more than they have. It seems like it is still more of the same.

Anonymous said...

Why were you hoping that, Apollo?

They campaigned on making the process transparent and legislators account for their earmarks.

Sounds like you're just repeating the latest press releases from Republicans instead of thinking it through.