ay LaHood has caught Obama fever and it’s wracked him so badly that you’d never know our new Transportation Secretary is (was?) a Republican, or that he once understood, quite literally, what plays in Peoria, the congressional district he represented until the One gave him the Nod. Now suddenly a righteous evangelist for bikes over cars, he’s no longer interested in keeping government out of our lives; instead, he’s working to use government to, as he puts it, “change our behavior.”
I prefer a different spin: He’s using government to force change on us. As George Will lamented recently,
But LaHood is a Republican, for Pete’s sake, the party (before it lost its bearings) of “No, we can’t” and “Actually, we shouldn’t” and “Not so fast” and “Let’s think this through.” Now he is in full “Yes we can!” mode. Et tu, Ray?
Will sat down for lunch with LaHood a while back to ask him about his newfound love of transformational government, and LaHood was not about to cover up his newfound giddyness over having the power to rip people out of the cars they love and stick them on bicycles:
Indeed, about three bites into lunch, the T word lands with a thump: He says he has joined a “transformational” administration: “I think we can change people’s behavior.” Government “promoted driving” by building the Interstate Highway System—”you talk about changing behavior.” He says, “People are getting out of their cars, they are biking to work.” High-speed intercity rail, such as the proposed bullet train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, is “the wave of the future.”
Yes, my fellow Americans, one day you’ll take a train or your bike to the soccer game, riding the inherently inferior transportion of the future to the inherently boring game of the future. Sigh. I remember when the transportation of the future was the Jetson-mobile, larking its way through the clear, clean skies. Now the car of the future is the bicycle?! A mode of transportation that went out of style in 1910?
The DC press corps apparently read Will’s column, so when LaHood appeared a few days later at the National Press Club, they pounced, according to CNS:
At the National Press Club on Thursday he attempted to respond to George Will’s column and to explain his vision for using the power of government to change people’s transportation behavior and to change the nature of American residential communities.
“We want to really–and notwithstanding the fact that George Will doesn’t like this idea–the idea of creating opportunities for people to get out of their cars–and we’re working with the secretary of HUD, Shaun Donovan, on opportunities for housing, walking paths, biking paths,” said LaHood. “If somebody wants to ride their bike, if–to work or to the place of employment or to other places–mass transit, light rail–creating opportunities for what we call livable communities.”
The moderator of the press club event asked LaHood: “Some in the highway-supporters motorist groups have been concerned by your livability initiative. Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?”
LaHood answered: “It is a way to coerce people out of their cars.
“Yeah,” he continued, “I mean, look, people don’t like spending an hour and a half getting to work. And people don’t like spending an hour going to the grocery store. And all of you who live around here know exactly what I’m talking about. You know, the dreaded thing is to have to run an errand on a weekend around here or to try and get home at 3:00 in the afternoon or even 5:00 in the afternoon.
Someone tell LaHood people don’t like having to ride a bike through rain, snow or dark of night to work. Or having to go to the grocery store every day because the trunk on the ol’ Schwinn just isn’t all that big. Or having to get shoved into a crowded subway, where the pervert du jour can rub up against you. Or having to pay $75 for a cab because the boss kept you late and you missed the last train.
Someone tell LaHood that the minute streetcars, then cars, made it possible to get out of the idealized planners’ vision of a compact urban core, we did, fleeing by the millions to suburbs, where we continue to live because we don’t like crack dealers on the street corner, gangstas in our kids’ schools, and car alarms going off at 3 a.m.
One reporter asked LaHood to respond to conservative concerns that he’s just another fascist know-it-all loon he’s supporting government intrusion into our lives. His response?
“About everything we do around here is government intrusion in people’s lives,” said LaHood. “So have at it.”
Meanwhile, GM bond-holders did not respond warmly to government mandated depreciation of their bonds, forcing the automaker to the brink of bankruptcy. The GM that emerges could be as much as 70 percent government-owned. And who, then, would become a pivotal decision-maker for GM’s future? Roy LaHood, the man who lives to make cars less attractive than bikes and subways.
It’s a brave new world. Full speed backwards!