The Bottomless Cookie Jar

“Almost every day port officials appeal for taxpayer funding in order to speed up the expansion of container ports. Harbor channels must be dredged and ‘high-tech systems’ must be installed in order to accommodate the giant megaships that will soon be coming our way through the widened Panama canal, according to those officials.”

That’s what we wrote on Monday, two days ago, and although we neglected to mention bridges in that commentary, the folks at the Port of New York and New Jersey’s 8th Annual Port Industry Day didn’t. The Bayonne Bridge, you see, is the greatest impediment to the growth of container traffic in that port complex. In fact, the port authority’s commerce director refers to it as “the Number One issue in the port”.

“We are looking at all the alternatives, including a tunnel, building another bridge, or raising the level of the existing bridge,” the commerce director said. The cost of raising or replacing that bridge could be as much as $ 2 billion, he said, and added that “It’s not a matter of if but when.”

[That $ 2 billion must be the “billion here and the billion there” that Senator Dirksen was joking about when he said that “and pretty soon you’re talking about some real money”.]

But those port official folks are pikers when it comes to spending tax money. Our money.

“Real money” was what the American Association of State and Highway Officials had in mind when they adopted a $ 545 billion proposal for next year’s surface transportation reauthorization bill. The source of that “real money”, according to a CQ Politics report, would be a “mix of fuel tax increases, bonds and levies on shipping containers, car sales and miles driven”.

The group’s plan to pay for its exorbitant spending program includes a smorgasbord of funding options that would raise [extort?] $ 1.3 trillion for favored “infrastructure” projects, and included the following recommendations:
• A 1 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax;
• A $ 10 fee per container on cargo shipped through U.S. ports;
• A national sales vehicle tax of 1 percent;
• An annual fee on the miles a vehicle travels, based on the odometer readings at state inspections;
• A tax on the tons of freight carried by truckers.

Not one of those big spenders has a clue about logistics. We’ve been writing about the dozens of unused ports … in the very back yards of U.S. consumers … where low-cost upgrading could save billions of highway miles and render unnecessary the extortion of $ 545 [plus 2] billion tax dollars. Converting these ports to container handling facilities would return billions to U.S. taxpayers.

It must be great to be an unelected official and not have to work for a living.