Economy & Budget

The high-speed nonsense of Ray Lahood

The high-speed nonsense of Ray Lahood

It’s not every day you hear a cabinet member praising authoritarians abroad. Then again, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unleashes so many preposterous statements he makes Joe Biden look like a high priest of Vulcan.

In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to meet cabinet members, governors, senators and even a few presidential candidates, but, honestly, I’ve never met anyone less impressive at the higher levels of government than LaHood. When I listened to him claim that commercial flying was a perilous mode of transportation, heard him say that bullet trains would soon replace cars and claim that building more bike lanes would solve the congestion problems in major cities … well, how can I put this: giving someone this silly a cabinet position should be an impeachable offense. Remember this is the guy who recklessly, and without evidence, suggested Americans “stop driving” Toyota for safety reasons right in the middle of the debate over the General Motors rescue.

So, with that said, I’m not surprised to read that LaHood is busy admiring solution-based Chinese authoritarianism at Aspen Ideas Festival.

“The Chinese are more successful [in building infrastructure] because in their country, only three people make the decision. In our country, 3,000 people do,” LaHood said in a short interview with The Cable on the sidelines of the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival on June 30. “In a country where only three people make the decision, they can decide where to put their rail line, get the money, and do it. We don’t do it that way inAmerica.”

“Two years ago, between 50 to 60 Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives to come to Washington to do nothing, and that’s what they’ve done and they’ve stopped any progress. Those people don’t have any vision about what the government can do. That’s been a real inhibitor in our ability to think outside the box and think big,” he said.

The problem — beyond the idea of spending untold billions on the antiquated technology of static choo-choo trains — is that the three people making all these wonderful decisions in China now have a high-speed rail system plagued by failure, corruption, out-of-control costs and legitimate safety concerns.

Listen, I’m sure American companies would create safe high-speed rail systems — we don’t want to engage in gratuitous scaremongering. And I’m not suggesting that three people can’t, theoretically speaking, make better decisions that 300 million people. What I am saying is that those in congress standing in the way of high-speed rail subsidies have a lot clearer vision about government actually does and costs than Ray LaHood.

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