Friday, October 8, 2010

Lower Case On Traffic Signs

So, the latest outrage is that the Feds are requiring that all municipal street signs have upper-case caps, and lower-case lettering, like all proper nouns in a book would be. Also, that higher reflectivity be applied to street signs. This means that all street signs will have to be replaced over the next several years costing municipalities and states tens of millions each. This, naturally, has tea-partiers all the more outraged against a federal government it sees as too intrusive enough.

What's my take on this? Immediately I began to suspect a rider -- that is, a clause in a bill which was included in another bill dealing with something else entirely. Riders are a common way to get concessions to secure enough votes for passage, and without them, very few bills would ever get passed. One wonders why this is necessarily such a bad thing, but that's how it goes. So I began researching if there was a rider that was pushed through by the Democrats over the last two years.

As it turns out, there wasn't. So what's the driving force behind these new and excessively costly federal regulations? When they say, "The Feds" are requiring this, what do they mean? Why, they mean something called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD. All street signs must conform to it on penalty of fine, or suspension of federal programs. And who updates or alters the MUTCD? It's something called the FHWA, the Federal Highway Workers Association. Who the hell are they? They are a bureaucratic arm of the Department of Transportaion, or D.O.T., whom we're all familiar with. This, in turn, is controlled by cabinet post appointees, not Congressmen.

In other words, all the outrage that is being directed at the democrats over these new regulations is being misplaced. NOT ONE elected official is behind them!

The man in charge of the D.O.T. is one Mr. Ray La Hood. An Obama appointee, yes. But acting independently of Congress or the Office of the President. When the FHWA updates its rules on signs, it takes input from interested parties or certain jurisdictions, factors in any successful experimentation involved, and then approves or disapproves the change. It is they, the underlings of the cabinet appointees, who have enacted this costly change.

And they will NOT lose their jobs if the Democrats are voted out!

The very most Republicans can do is take the presidency in 2012, then appoint a new head of the DOT. That head, in turn, will likely not undo any of the changes already in place. It's all a tempest in a teacup.

Okay, conservatives have a good point about too much bureaucracy running people's lives. This is, in fact, a prime case example. However, this isn't the Democrats' fault (this time, anyway), and it is wrong to place the blame at their feet. It is therefore illogical to vote them out of office based on this travesty, which was never their doing. We may call for Ray LaHood to step down, and this seems reasonable to me.

But if I may ask, would you rather have government wasting money on street signs, or wasting even more money on a pointless war with Iran? Because that's what you'd be voting for by voting for Tea-Party Republicans.

Both sides waste money. I just happen to dislike the way Republicans waste money more than the other guys on the platform of fiscal responsibility. At least the D.O.T. provided a few extra jobs in all this nonsense.


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