Highway Bill, National Debt, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
HIGHWAY BILL - MARC SCRIBNER
The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on additional amendments to the massive surface transportation bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21, S. 1813). One amendment offered by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) seeks to prohibit the use of toll systems to pay for federal-aid highways. CEI transportation policy expert Marc Scribner argues this is a major step in the wrong direction:
Much of the country's Interstate system is nearly 50 years old and will soon need to be completely reconstructed. Without expanded tolling or dramatic tax increases, there will not be enough funding available to complete these very important projects.
The question is not if we pay for these improvements; it is how we pay for them. Without tolling as an available revenue collection mechanism, it will be all the more difficult to devolve transportation funding responsibility from the federal level and move toward more innovative public-private partnership models in the future.
NATIONAL DEBT - MATT PATTERSON
From the presidential inaugurations of George Washington to George W. Bush, our federal government accrued a debt of more than $5 trillion. Thanks to the spending binges of Bush and President Obama, our national debt is now in excess of $15 trillion. It is a sum equal to our entire national gross domestic product. It is a sum greater than the combined economies of China and Japan. The figure of $15 trillion is an amount so astronomical as to be literally incomprehensible -- beyond the ken of our formidable, if recently evolved, homo sapiens mind. (Unfortunately, that does not stop us from racking up such sums. Doubtless, the two phenomena are somehow related.) What does that mean for you?
ENERGY & OIL - DAVID BIER
The President shouldn’t just release some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as Congressional Democrats want—he should release all the oil and close the SPR permanently. The reserve’s origins and purposes are entirely based on myth—that the 1973-74 OPEC oil embargo decreased imports so dramatically that a massive oil shortage resulted (read why this is wrong here). The political benefits of this myth are plentiful. It outsources blame for the energy crisis to foreigners—in particular, Arabs. It also creates a climate of fear that showers extraordinary powers on politicians and bureaucrats. Finally, it permits political saviors to rescue us from high gas prices.