The clock is ticking on our economy.
There are only 9 days left before current funding for transit and highways expires and time is running out for Congress to pass a transportation jobs bill as our economy teeters. Reports from this week’s meetings of conferees say certain leaders are now gauging whether or not the House GOP can “accept” the compromises reached to move this jobs bill forward.
The question is, can the American public and transportation workers accept anything less.
These House members, leaders of the Earth is Flat Caucus, think it is a mistake to invest in transit systems, roads and bridges and to put people to work in the process. Now I’m not Christopher Columbus, but let’s give these folks a compass and direct them toward the facts: Every analysis of our surface transportation system comes to the same conclusion — we are not investing enough, and gridlock in our passenger and freight networks is the result.
A simple extension of the program, an idea being floated as an alternative to a real jobs bill, should be rejected because it won’t fix the enormous funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund that will be emptied in a matter of months. There are nearly 14 million Americans unemployed and thousands more could join them if this bill is not passed. At a time of growing demand transit systems are laying off thousands. And construction worker unemployment alone is at 14.2 percent, a rate that would drop if this bill is passed.
At a time when 80 percent of public transit systems are cutting back on service, raising fares and/or laying off workers, we hardly need transportation budget austerity measures – like those embodied in the Romney-Ryan budget – that bend the unemployment curve in the wrong direction.
Senators with virtually perfect conservative and liberal voting records alike want a transportation jobs bill. House Democrats and President Obama want this bill. The Chamber of Commerce wants this bill. Businesses of all sizes want this bill.
Yet this point seems lost on the Earth is Flat Caucus which is confusing cutting government waste with making long-term investments in safe and modern transit and rail systems, highways, bridges and ports and waterways. Cutting a pet program of the right or left is predictably what politicians do to score points with supporters. Letting our transportation system fall apart is what irresponsible politicians do. Obviously some want to undermine President Obama’s re-election at all costs and don’t want to give the President a chance to sign a good jobs bill into law. But can’t we put election politics on hold and do what’s best for the country for about two minutes? Trust me – there are plenty of other issues to argue about for the next five months.
The nation can’t wait any longer for this legislation. The House GOP needs to rein in those who are motivated to kill this bill, make a deal with the Senate and send a transportation jobs bill to the President for his signature.