LaHood: America is really just "one big pothole," you know

In the spirit of all good big-government bureaucrats, he really regrets that he just didn’t get the chance to spend enough of our money for us.

Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lamented the amount of infrastructure spending that was approved by Congress during his tenure at the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Wednesday.

“America is one big pothole right now,” LaHood said in an interview on “The Diane Rehm Show” on National Public Radio.

“At one time … we were the leader in infrastructure,” LaHood continued. “We built the interstate system. It’s the best road system in the world, and we’re proud of it. But we’re falling way behind other countries, because we have not made the investments.” …

“The next decisions that will be made by this Congress, by this administration will have to be bold if we’re going to continue our efforts to fix up our roads, keep our highways in a state of good repair, to fix up unsafe bridges,” he said. “We need a bold plan, and a bold way to fund it.”

“Investments.” Ugh. Funny how all we seem to hear about from President Obama and his administration officials are ways in which they can either increase spending, or increase taxes to try to cover their spending, but rarely-to-never about ways in which ways in which they can substantively cut spending nor re-appropriate their department’s duties from the federal government to states governments or the private sector. Which probably has something to do with the CBO’s recent report that we’re all set to add at least $7 trillion to our already $16 trillion dollar debt over the next decade.

As Jonah Goldberg already opined today, one way we can really help ourselves through this mess is by encouraging a robust rate of economic growth, and whatever President Obama might say, the federal government throwing money around — I’m sorry, “investing” — in education and infrastructure are not efficient ways to get that done.

Still, you can bet that if the economy continues to contract, Obama will propose the same remedy he always has: more “investments” in education, infrastructure, and various industries of the future. …

This is hardly shocking: Building roads and schools is a big reason why God created Democrats in the first place. And identifying the Next Big Thing — and taking credit for it — is something of a vocation for many liberal policymakers.

But are these really the drivers of economic growth? …

Japan is now well into its third “lost decade.” Over the years, it has poured money into “stimulative” infrastructure projects that have yet to stimulate and protected industries that have steadily lost their competitive edge. Economic growth has averaged less than 1 percent since 2000, while government debt is now more than twice its GDP. If a highly educated work force, support for allegedly cutting-edge industries, and lavish spending on infrastructure was the recipe for economic growth (and if debt didn’t matter), Japan would be doing great.

The federal government busying itself with expensive, top-down projects (many of which would be more productively and effectively handled by the states and the private sector, by the way) that construct what they think should be the frameworks of a good economy, don’t do much good if the economy is too pitiful to fill them out.