Over the next few days, we will throw out some policy ideas for the new Obama administration. Readers should send in their own proposals by posting a comment.
While the financial crisis permits Obama to spend almost unlimited amounts of money in his first year trying to jump start the economy, he still needs to find ways to re-direct government funds towards projects liberals care about. He can start by raiding the Pentagon and Homeland Security budgets for mass transportation.
Mass transportation? It’s called an evacuation plan. According to the Washington Post, earlier this year officials failed to implement an evacuation plan for the metro DC area. "Backed by a $1.4 million federal grant, officials intended to create a unified evacuation plan in case of a terrorist strike or other disaster," according to the paper. "But they scaled it back to a guide for governments in the Washington area, with a database of highways, shelters, buses and other resources." An official at the Homeland Security Department said, "What we decided was: You can’t have one operational plan across state, commonwealth and District for evacuation."
Can’t or won’t? It would seem that DC, along with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago would be prime targets for a terrorist attack and overcoming niceties about jurisdictions is precisely what the Homeland Security Department should be doing. Instead, they issued "a database of highways" etc. which sounds to me like a map.
The DC metro system would be essential to any evacuation plan. But, it has always lacked a critical feature of a great mass transit system, a ring route that circumnavigates the city connecting the spokes of the other lines. Currently, to get from the eastern suburbs to the western or northern suburbs, you need to head downtown and then out. This produces a curious phenomenon every morning: The inbound trains are jam-packed and the outbound trains are near-empty. If there was a circle line around the city, at least a hefty percentage of the riders would find it easier to reach their destinations heading outbound and across rather than downtown and back out. Paris, London, Moscow, all have ring lines on their metro systems.
In the event, DC, like many cities, has a traffic Beltway, a multi-lane route that runs around the city. You could put the new metro line down the median. No need for making any eminent domain claims: The government owns the land. No problem with environmental impact.
The Homeland Security Budget for 2009 is $50.5 billion, representing an increase of 6.8 percent over 2008. The figure does not include emergency supplementals which amounted to another $7.7 billion last year. The Pentagon Budget is even bigger: $515.4 billion for fiscal 2009, a 7.5 percent increase over this year’s funding levels. I am sure that some of that money is going to places it does not need to go, rewarding contractors who are longtime GOP donors, or pursuing weapons systems that will not materially improve our national security..
No Democrat can risk slashing the Pentagon of Homeland Security budgets for fear of political backlash. All it would take is one person with a vaguely foreign sounding name destroying a shrub and Rush Limbaugh at al., would be moaning for weeks about how the President’s budget cuts invited the attack. But, by stressing the need for improved evacuation plans, Obama could re-direct some of the money from these budgetary behomoths towards other urgent tasks.