Highway Robbery

HIGHWAY ROBBERY….Ya gotta love this:

Defying a presidential veto threat….the Republican-controlled Senate voted 76-21 to pass a six-year, $318 billion highway and mass transit spending bill….But the $318 billion sought far outstrips the $218 billion approved for the current six-year plan and the $256 billion the administration insists should be the ceiling at a time when the government faces record-high budget deficits.

….At a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Treasury Secretary John Snow characterized the highway bill as a litmus test for the government’s will to cut the deficit. A bill that exceeds the president’s request, he said, “would have a very, very very corrosive effect in financial market confidence in all of us.”

You have to admire the chutzpah: after three years of disastrous Bush administration economic planning that has produced deficits as far as the eye can see and made world markets increasingly nervous, suddenly this one highway bill is the straw that will have a “very, very, very corrosive” effect on market confidence. All from spending $10 billion per year more than the president wants ? an increase that could be easily funded by simply re-indexing the gasoline tax for inflation.

And how about political courage? Bush is threatening a veto for the first time in his entire spendthrift administration and he’s doing it on a bill that he knows will get passed over his veto anyway. That’s the way to demonstrate fiscal toughness!

POSTSCRIPT: On substantive grounds, I don’t know what to think of this bill. I’m generally in favor of infrastructure spending, but construction bills typically end up as pork-laden monstrosities and don’t have nearly the effect on employment that’s usually promised. Plus they voted down an amendment that would have given California more money.

So I guess I don’t really care.

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