It Has To Happen

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave Governor Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and the rest of Georgia news they wanted to hear. After touring the Port of Savannah with the duo, LaHood addressed the delegation and reporters in tow saying “We’ll figure out how to get the federal dollars to make this happen. It has to happen.”

The endorsement is as much the beginning of a process as the culmination of one. LaHood promised to convene a meeting of relevant and interested parties in Washington to identify funding sources for the project. Thus far, only $600,000 of the roughly $600 Million needed has been appropriated to the Army Corps of Engineers, and that was for the final permitting and planning. Construction dollars have not been committed.

With Supercommittees and various “Gangs” in Washington wielding budgetary axes, the funding is still not guaranteed. But when the President’s cabinet member says “It has to happen”, one could reasonably expect that it will happen.

Deal and Reed have been pursuing the funds since Deal’s inauguration, with Reed being the friendly face in Washington when calling on the Democratically held White House and other executive agencies. The united front of Republican and Democrat, Atlanta and Savannah, has impressed many along the way. With Deal a Republican and Reed a Democrat, the victory can be said to be one of bipartisanship. That oversimplifies the issue. In reality, two men of very different political backgrounds and bases of support have worked together toward a common shared goal despite the differences.

It’s what is usually done when something “has to happen.” In today’s political environment, however, it’s also tragically rare. The ability to work with others across an aisle toward common purposes used to be considered a valued skill. The act is viewed as “compromise”, and is commonly considered an act of weakness, treason, or selling out core principals. Partisans on both sides like to play all or nothing games, and are often now content to view gridlock as the ideal condition where no harm can be done until their side has a supermajority and can deliver 100% of their agenda.

The reality is that we, as a state and as a nation, have many items that have to be done. The U.S. is currently spending well over a trillion dollars per year more than we take in, with the national debt now standing at a cool $15 trillion. Spending on entitlements and interest on the debt is growing, yet already consumes all tax dollars collected. The entire discretionary portion of the budget is financed with borrowed money. This cannot continue, and the budget deficit trends must be reversed. It has to happen.

Our nation has known for 40 years that we needed to end our dependence on foreign oil. We’ve largely ignored the problem, with one side demanding “drill here, drill now” but without offering meaningful alternative energy solutions nor conservation measures. The other side wants layers of carbon credit trading and an end to most domestic energy sources of both oil and coal. Meanwhile, we send hundreds of billions of dollars per year to countries that wish us harm while spending hundreds of billions more to send troops overseas to protect oil supply routes. For our national and economic security, we must adopt a sound and comprehensive energy policy. It has to happen.

At the state level, Georgians in the Atlanta area face some of the worst traffic and commute times in the nation. The quality of life that has attracted so many to the region for decades is deteriorating into gridlock. Yet no major regional infrastructure program has been initiated in the last two decades as the problems grow worse. If Atlanta is to continue to grow, then there must be a coherent regional traffic plan. It has to happen.

Georgia’s education system remains among the nation’s worst. Employers looking for a skilled labor force need a labor pool that meets more than just basic physical requirements. We will not attract employers to turn around higher than national average unemployment numbers without being able to provide 21st century skills though our K-12 schools, technical colleges, and universities. It too has to happen.

Government is not the sole solution in any of the above issues. But the limited government we have should be functional, competent, and dedicated to the overall policies that create an environment that lets individuals prosper. Too many within government are now more interested in protecting their fiefdoms, and of making sure that the other guy doesn’t win that we all end up losing. This can no longer be considered acceptable. Governor Deal and Mayor Reed have demonstrated how to work across party lines to accomplish big goals. Others need to follow their lead. This has to happen.


  1. Scott65 says:

    Well, you started out ok, but then digressed into the same kind of bs that we all hear. We take in less than we spend, no transportation , bad schools, foreign aid…problem is, its just a little more complex than that. We spend money in foreign aid that gets us many nuanced things in return that you and I are not aware of…many things utmost of which keep us safe. As I recall, Concept 3 was a pretty good transportation plan…there are several regional plans. Problem is at the state house and lack of vision (and some would say balls) to do the things that the state needs instead of punting to the voters who seem all too willing to listen more to propaganda than facts. If you want to put energy to good use, take a look at SOPA (legislation going through congress now) that could potentially take this and any other web site down if someone gets a bug up their…well you know how that goes. SOPA could affect every single person that reads this blog, but my guess is very few even know about it

  2. saltycracker says:

    In an election year, visiting GA., what would any incumbent bunch say ? Don’t hold your breathe on a “we’ve got to do it” remark made by D.C. If there is any alternative, Fed funding of this magnitude is a challenge.

    Interesting comment on high-speed rail in Nov 21 Fortune Mag. by Matt Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern RR and member of President Obama’s jobs council.

    Q: The administration wants to make big bets on high-speed passenger rail. How realistic is that.

    A. “You tell me what the price of gas is, and I’ll tell you what I think of high speed rail. Unless we want to price gasoline like Europe, I don’t think European – style high-speed passenger rail will ever be workable.

    Maybe we’ll see it work in the Northeast corridor and California – but to build out the top 30 cities on high-speed rail would cost $1 trillion.”

    Anyone out there going to insist on a $2/$3 + gas tax to get this ?
    It’ll be tough enough to get a 1% T-SPLOST for mind boggling expensive light rail to haul folks around for a couple bucks……

    • rense says:

      “I don’t think European – style high-speed passenger rail will ever be workable.”

      High speed passenger rail doesn’t need to directly “pay for itself” in order to provide a real economic and social benefit to this state. The best example of this would be a “brain train” that would connect Athens to Atlanta first (UGA to Emory/Georgia Tech/Georgia State/CDC) and then hopefully to Macon (Mercer) and Augusta (Medical College of Georgia). While such a venture would never directly “pay for itself” in terms of generating enough fare revenue to cover the cost of construction/operation/maintenance, many very credibly believe that the indirect benefits (economic and otherwise) would be significant and make the project more than worth its while.

      It is sad that rail projects have been so identified with environmentalism, social engineering and other provinces of left-liberalism that conservatives won’t even bother to try to distinguish between the non-starter type obvious liberal fantasyland/try to dictate where everyone should live projects and the things that might actually help move this state forward.

  3. Homer says:

    On the TSPLOST thing? Atlanta is falling behind both natural competitors like Houston and Charlotte because they are investing in ‘cool’ projects that make companies what to bring jobs there. Shanghai and Sao Paulo (our real competitors) are doing an even better job. If you want your business to do better, invest in technology that makes you more competitive. If Atlanta wants to compete globally, it had better do the same.

    The Beltline is a MARKETING expense. The billion dollars it will cost will create TENS of billions of dollars in increased property values and business, with minimal carry impact (yiou don’t need more fire stations, there’s already water and sewer there, etc. etc.). Think an extra lane on 400 to Cumming creates that kind of leverage? Not hardly.

    The issue, as you allude, is one of leadership – or rather, the LACK of leadership, which has created the situation that we are in; and good leadership is all that can fix it. Some tough calls need to be made. People will need to take personal responsibility for becoming informed about the realities of the why’s and what’s – and I don’t mean political positions; I mean economic truths. As a nation, we have to get used to the idea that we can’t just have everything that we want all of the time without some way of paying for it, and that the ‘common good’ stuff really is more important than the me-me-me stuff…

    One way that we’ll have to start dealing with things is on a total-cost basis. You think light rail is an expensive way to move folks around? Only if you don’t take into account the much lower cost-of-service that the sort of dense living arrangements it encourages. Think repaving and widening roads to widely dispersed suburbs is cheap? Only if you think that keeping the cheap gas flowing doesn’t cost trillions in military spending. Yes – gas MUST be more expensive, if only to reflect the true costs of making it available. Then the market truly can decide what makes most sense. Right now, it’s hugely subsidized, and that subsidy drives all sorts of expensive non-market thought processes.

    Same is true of almost any issue. Don’t like rising medical costs? Don’t fight to keep grandma alive those last few (usually miserable) weeks. Allowing people to die with dignity when they are old (rather than pumping them full of chemicals to keep their shell alive in a hospital) will almost eliminate the 40% of health care dollars spent in the last 6 weeks of life. But no one knows that, because the costs are hidden in the employer-subsidized health insurance racket.

    We never even have those conversations, because we are too busy regurgitating what we hear on FOX, or MSNBC, or whatever…

  4. fishtail says:

    I have a well-placed and influential friend in South Carolina who I spoke with today about the Savannah harbor-deepening project. He nearly bit my head off when I brought up the topic. I was very surprised at his vociferous response. He said that the “true leaders of South Carolina” will do everything in their power to stop this deal, as they firmly believe it will set back Charleston’s port forever. This man is not an “average Joe” and I know how dialed in he is with SC’s business and political elite. He roundly trashed Gov Nikki Haley for selling out the State of South Carolina and said she has been bought off by GA fundraisers who have been giving her political contributions. He also said that GA Ports Chair Alec Pointevint had promised Nikki Haley a speaking role at next year’s GOP Convention. Is all this true? I don’t know, but I can say that this is not yet a done deal.

    • bowersville says:

      I have spoke to no one in SC and even if I did I don’t have access to any well placed and influential friends in SC. However, I’ve been reading quite a bit on the subject of the ports in Charleston versus Savannah. I used the word versus for a reason. Your friend expresses the identical concerns of what I’ve been reading. Apparently Gov Nikki Haley made “Charleston port first” a major campaign plank. The reports I’ve read are portraying her as going back on her word. The rest of what your friend says about GA fundraisers, I don’t know.

      However, blaming the conflict with the Savannah permitting process on the “environmental wackos” instead of strong political opposition from SC is a mistake based on what I’ve been reading.

Comments are closed.