Cavuto And Obenshain Push For Ryan's Budget Cuts To Infrastructure In The Aftermath Of Hurricane Irene

While we're still in the middle watching the devastating flooding left in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene (which Neil Cavuto, incidentally, was just showing some of ahead of this segment) and the likelihood that President Obama is going to come out
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While we're still in the middle of watching the devastating flooding left in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene with the likelihood that President Obama is going to come out and push the Republicans for some spending on infrastructure to get Americans back to work and help repair some of the damage from this storm, what's the reaction on Fox?

Apparently toeing the line for Paul Ryan's budget proposal which contains massive cuts to transportation and infrastructure spending. Ryan's name was never used and his proposal was never mentioned here, but that doesn't matter much, because what they were doing is advocating for everything that's in it. From the DC Streets Blog which I've got more of below the fold:

The proposal would also radically shift the balance of federal transportation spending toward highways. It promises to eliminate all new intercity rail projects unless they can be established as profitable private enterprises, for example. It also blames the highway trust fund’s deficits on non-highway spending, with “bike trails” specifically singled out. Of course, the real cause of the trust fund shortfall isn’t the minuscule amount spent on bikeways but the declining revenues from a gas tax that hasn’t even been adjusted for inflation since 1993.

Fox's Cavuto and Sarah Palin fan-girl Kate Obenshain attacked the tolls being collected at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and the Golden Gate Bridge and then immediately conflated the tolls being collected on those bridges to the gas tax and spending on infrastructure and transportation at the federal level instead of the state level, and claimed that those taxes weren't really being used on infrastructure, but instead being “wasted” on things like bike trails, maintaining our parks, historic preservation and mass transit, rather than paying to maintain roads and bridges.

As I already noted, more on what's wrong with these arguments below the fold, but first here's some of Obenshain's word-salad gibberish she ended the segment with (I think she's been spending a little too much time paling around with Sarah Palin).

OBENSHAIN: Well of course it doesn't. And you look at the President's priorities right now. That is the essence of the problem Neil. Instead of going to the government's responsibility, that's making sure that our roads and our bridges are safe, instead we've the President proposing $53 billion for the fast rail with no cost analysis benefit. This is government philosophy. Instead of focusing on the true, real, good purposes of government, and of our responsibility to provide for, just this kind of scenario, we're off helping build more bike trails with federal funds when we've seen unsustainable increases in transportation spending right now. We've just seen, I think we've just hit the $4 trillion dollar mark that the President has increased the debt by, and yet we're talking about adding to that?

How about focusing our transportation funds on what is real and necessary and right now, frankly, cutting out the stuff that we can put off until we've renewed the prosperity that the free market can bring about. But if we continue to think that just by pouring more and more government money into the problem, this is going to solve the issue, we're making a huge mistake.

First of all, if I had to take a guess at why these two birds hate those toll roads so badly Cavuto was naming off here, it's probably because all of those bridges and tunnels are still owned and operated by the states they're located in, and they haven't been sold off to some private company. If they had been privatized, I have a feeling neither of them would have been using them as examples to complain about. They never seem to have a problem with private industry gouging working people.

As to their arguments about how much infrastructure spending we've been doing and how that money is being spent, as I noted above, Noah Kazis over at DC Streets Blog did an excellent job of breaking down what Paul Ryan was proposing for transportation spending in his budget and I'll just share some of that here. I'll let the readers here be the judge as to whether Cavuto and Obenshain may as well have been reading from a script promoting his proposals, but that's what it appeared to be to me.

GOP Budget Would Slash Transpo Spending, Entrench Oil Dependence:

With the release of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal yesterday, right wing calls for massive cuts to transportation spending are now enshrined in the GOP leadership’s fiscal plan. Ryan singled out transportation as an area particularly ripe for cuts, criticized the use of gas tax revenues for projects that aren’t highways, and called for transportation spending levels to barely cover half of what President Obama requested in February.

Ryan’s budget calls for $704 billion to be spent on transportation over the next decade. That’s $318 billion less than if current spending levels were simply extended forward, according to House Transportation Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall’s office, and $633 billion less than what Obama requested.

The proposal would also radically shift the balance of federal transportation spending toward highways. It promises to eliminate all new intercity rail projects unless they can be established as profitable private enterprises, for example. It also blames the highway trust fund’s deficits on non-highway spending, with “bike trails” specifically singled out. Of course, the real cause of the trust fund shortfall isn’t the minuscule amount spent on bikeways but the declining revenues from a gas tax that hasn’t even been adjusted for inflation since 1993.

The unwillingness to raise the gas tax or add any additional revenue to the Highway Trust Fund is a major underlying reason for the major cuts in Ryan’s plan. By ruling out either increasing the gas tax or spending some general fund revenue on surface transportation, as has become the practice since 2008, the Ryan budget would essentially lock in major transportation cuts. (In contrast, the bi-partisan deficit reduction commission led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson recommended raising the federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon.)

Ryan’s budget also leaves billions in potential revenue untapped by leaving in place the substantial subsidies for the fossil fuel industry embedded in the nation’s tax code.

So surprise, surprise, they're carrying water not just for Ryan, but for the oil industry as well. Color me not shocked. Dave Dayden has more on the gas tax and the Republicans recent hostage taking on that issue.

Gas Tax Hostage Situation Would Create a Windfall for Oil Companies:

The New York Times editorializes on the federal gas tax today, which is a bit depressing. The tax is much smaller than in other countries around the world, and yet when it expires September 30, what is normally a routine extension could turn into another hostage situation from the Tea Party crowd.

Unless Congress extends it, the $.18 per gallon federal gas tax will expire on Sept. 30. Allowing that to happen would be tremendously destructive. It would bankrupt the already stressed Highway Trust Fund, with devastating effects on the country’s highways, bridges, mass transit systems and the economy as a whole.

Reports suggest that some House Republicans may push to let the tax lapse or use the threat of expiration as leverage in the budget wars. This is a dangerous idea. If anything, the tax should rise to maintain a system that constantly needs upkeep — the backlog of bridges needing repair is estimated at $72 billion — creates jobs and encourages drivers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

You would have just 10 percent of the revenue coming into the Highway Trust Fund without the gas tax. Heck, even Bowles-Simpson called for an increase in the gas tax, which, if it’s offset with increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit so the result isn’t as regressive, makes some sense.

As for the argument that I’m sure the wingnuts will make, the idea that eliminating the gas tax would just put money back into people’s pockets (so they can build roads?), we actually have a test case for this now, which we should remember and trot out at every opportunity. When Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks earlier this year, it disabled the authority for the agency to collect airline ticket fees, which go toward FAA operations. Did that put money back into people’s pockets? No, the airlines simply raised their ticket prices to the level of the tax. No passenger saw a red cent in savings. When asked about this, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor defended the practices, saying merely, “That’s what business does.” Precisely – and it’s exactly what oil companies would do in the event of an expiration of the federal gas tax. This would be nothing but a transfer of cash from building highways to the coffers of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the world.

And from the DC Streets Blog as well, here's more on the history of the United States using transportation money for bicycling and walking trails -- AAA Gets an Earful From Members About Equality for Bikes:

In July of last year, when AAA launched their roadside bicycle repair service, cyclists got a warm fuzzy feeling for a minute and thought AAA was about as bike-friendly as an automobile organization could be. That bubble burst in July when AAA Mid-Atlantic President and CEO Don Gagnon editorialized that highway trust fund money should be reserved just for highways [PDF].

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy shot back:

“Highway Trust Fund” is a misleading name dating to the 1950s and the founding of the Interstate system. It is a transportation trust fund that has supported transit for 40 years and trails, bicycling and walking for nearly 20 years.

And last but not least, the topic of our spending on our military industrial complex and whether that's sustainable or not never came up as something worthy of debate here and what our priorities should be as to how we're spending our tax dollars. Heaven forbid we can ever talk about taking a dime away from that -- but for those dirty f@*king hippies on their bicycles and those cretins who would like to see their parks and walking trails preserved, we've got to cut spending on those things, because we're broke don't you know.

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