Where have President Obama's and his Secretary of Transportation's backbones gone? Long time passing. I'm sitting here weeping and fuming at the same time as I read that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he will consider the Feds' offer to return $128 million of the $271 million the Garden State owes the taxpayer. In case you missed it, King Christie is the smooth talking, camera loving, arrogant fiscal conservative who had the chutzpah to kill the much-needed ARC rail tunnel between New York City and its bedroom suburb cum toxic waste dump to the west.
For a week or two there, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was showing some spine and even said to Christie, "OK then, you owe us the $271 million we've already shelled out for the killed project." But that train has left the station. Now the same LaHood is cutting a deal that would forgive New Jersey nearly half of its loan. Where do I sign up for a similar rebate on my mortgage? I'm there.
But it gets even better. Read what King Christie had to say to LaHood about his New Year's Eve fire sale. "I would say that offer was a nice start, and we'll continue to talk." While Christie's been throwing around his considerable weight and making Fox News' viewers smile at another humiliation for the President, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is our tax money New Jersey is stealing and Washington is giving away. Though I'm from Lalaland, I thought that after the November elections the tax and spend Democrat was a thing of the past?
I know this is the season of giving but where is the American public's righteous indignation over a $128 million handout to New Jersey? As Pauly D on Jersey Shore would say, "Forgetaboutit."
What's worse, it is Senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez, both Democrats, who have been doing the Republican King's bidding in making sure New Jersey doesn't have to pay back the rest of us for their governor's publicity stunt on the tunnel. They are evidently working hand in hand with Patton Boggs, the overpriced DC lobbying firm that the King hired to help bend LaHood's and the President's ears. Who woulda thunk that New Jersey's investment in the $485 an hour lobbyists to fight LaHood's bill would ever pay off?
This whole circus act over the ARC tunnel has to count as one of the biggest and most unexpected windfalls to come out of Washington since the defense contracts to provide drones to President Bush's, and now President Obama's, hopeless wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For this, King Christie has my respect. He's nothing if not opportunistic. And Washington's ineptitude has only helped make the media savvy pol with broader ambitions a national player.
I am so done with Harvard-educated presidents. Next time around I'm voting for the horse trader or rug seller from the souk who knows how to negotiate and close the deal.
Though it's not my people's holiday, this year I'm celebrating Christmas big time. But I'm not wasting my time writing Santa with my wish list. Instead I'm texting Secretary LaHood and the President and asking them to leave cash for the 30/10 Initiative complete with the Wilshire Subway to the Sea and a train from the Valley to LAX and the South Bay under my virtual tree. At least we will put the money to good use building public transportation.
Here's to a healthy and prosperous New Year!
Yours in transit,