Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was in Atlanta on August 5 and addressed a joint legislative committee on transportation funding. He said Georgia needs more clout in Congress. Barry Loudermilk, congressional candidate and former member of both the Georgia House and Senate transportation committees, wrote this response to Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on LaHood’s comments; it was published in The Political Insider column. (Benita Dodd wrote about the legislative committee hearing; read it here.)
By Barry Loudermilk
I read with interest former congressman Ray LaHood’s comments, about the lack of a Georgian on the Congressional Transportation Committee, and AJC columnist Jim Galloway’s analysis thereof; and I felt compelled to contribute a conservative counterpoint to their conclusions.
Conservatives in general, and even so called Tea Party conservatives are not against transportation spending. Indeed, interstate commerce is one purpose of interstate highways and byways, and is one of the things the federal government is actually supposed to spend our tax dollars on.
What conservatives are opposed to is needless and excessive spending, pork-barrel spending, deficit spending, spending to pick winners and losers among American individuals and corporations, and spending to promote the social and economic whims of the Washington few.
As a member of the transportation committees in both the State House and Senate, I was charged with helping meet our transportation needs inside of Georgia, and to fold these efforts in as seamlessly as possible with the interstate system paid for by our federal tax dollars.
Georgia is, in large part, a transportation-based economy; we have a premier port facility in Savannah, the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, a huge agribusiness sector that needs access to foreign and domestic markets, and a vital rail infrastructure. We also have many Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, whose leaders count on the ability to travel swiftly and frequently across the country and the world to remain competitive.
Transportation — when done logically — is more than a crucial economic development tool, it is a necessary public service that crosses all demographic, economic and political sectors. It benefits both large and small businesses, employers and employees, and virtually all segments of our society. A robust interstate system can simultaneously accommodate trucks President Obama’s pet Solyndra solar panels, those carrying petroleum companies’ products as well as a family on their vacation. True economic harmony and fair access to all.
What Mr. LaHood fails to understand is the degree to which Washington-based incompetence, favoritism, waste and fiscal irresponsibility have damaged the trust the American people have in the ability of the federal government to do anything right. The IRS has become the strong-arm of an out of control government, the NSA spies on us, an alphabet soup of national agencies dumps nonsensical regulations on us, the Veterans Administration fails our heroes, our tax system has become a torture device, and yet, Washington asks for our battered trust and hard-earned money to devise the best transportation system for the nation. Americans have lost confidence in their national government, and it must be the labor of the next generation of lawmakers in Congress to restore it.
Fortunately, restoring that confidence can be accomplished by replacing those responsible for wrecking it and bringing in those with new fresh ideas to resolve our growing list of problems.
I am an optimist. I believe America is capable of great things, and that our best days lie ahead of us. I also believe that an increase in competence and respect for the proper role of the federal government in our lives will allow that government to do the things — like interstate transportation — it is supposed to do, and do them well. There will be no more fervent supporter of that than I.
The best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion. When you change the beliefs of the people; the politicians and political parties change with them.