H.R. 22 – TEA 21 “The Highway Bill”: No
H.R. 22 – TEA 21 “The Highway Bill”: No. The Highway Trust Fund – accent on the “Trust” – was a promise made to highway users that the gas taxes they paid at the pump would be used for highways. Period. That promise was broken long ago and now shattered by this act. HR 22 is a five-year, $305 billion highway bill, but only $207.4 billion will be spent on anything remotely resembling highways (and much of that wasted on environmental mitigation, inflated labor costs and highway beautification projects). $48.7 million will be raided to prop up failing mass transit systems. (I have nothing against mass transit; I simply believe that highway users should pay for highways and mass transit users should pay for mass transit).
But in addition to raiding our highway taxes, this bill demands more revenues derived in a variety of undesirable ways. It sells off 66 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at the very bottom of the market (a board of directors that managed its assets so recklessly would be sued); hires private debt collectors to turn the screws on taxpayers (doesn’t that sound like fun?); raids the Federal Reserve of funds set aside to protect depositors and raids interest paid to large banks that are required to purchase Federal Reserve stock.
Oh, and to add insult to injury, this “highway bill” reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank, a posterchild of crony capitalism that puts U.S. taxpayers at risk for loans made to foreign corporations to buy American products with which to undercut American companies.
If there is any question why Congress is held in such low esteem, I submit HR 22 as Exhibit A.