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Normally, when you want to criticize an elected or appointed official, you look at what they are doing while in office and use that to explain why they are so very terrible at their job. Whether it’s new laws, regulations, or even just simple policy proposals, it’s when they have a track record that you can best lay out your case.
Or, at least, that’s how it goes multiple times. In the curious case of the Secretary of Transportation, it’s the absence of any of that which screams ineptitude.
Consider the port troubles closer to the beginning of Joe Biden’s term. We had American ports essentially shut down because of labor disputes, which contributed to a major supply chain shortage the likes of which we’re still seeing remnants of today. During that time, where was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg? On paternity leave.
That’s not to shame him for taking paternity leave (I had a rather fortuitous opportunity to do so when my second child was born that allowed me to miss the standardized testing season at the school where I was teaching at the time…). But no one knew where he was and, what’s worse, no one thought to ask. That right there kind of shows you how vital he was to that position. He could just take off and no one really seemed to care.
One thing Buttigieg has been really proud of is the massive infrastructure spending bill Congress passed a while back. He loves going out and talking about the big projects it’s funding.
But, we have the FAA Notice to Air Mission system failure, and come to find out, the digital infrastructure there is extremely old and out of date. Why didn’t USDOT ask for some money to help upgrade the system like it was supposed to? Instead, it’s still years before that system gets an upgrade.
Why did we have a major train derailment go unaddressed by Buttigieg for more than a week? Currently, the problem seems to be train brakes (which the Biden administration is conveniently blaming on the Trump administration for rolling back a rule that actually didn’t fix anything). If it was such a major rule change, why didn’t the Biden administration change it back?
That derailment, though, was on February 3. Buttigieg didn’t have any public comment about it until February 10. In the meantime, he spent some time in Louisiana touting an upcoming bridge construction project (to be fair, that bridge is scary as hell to drive over) and also attended a conference to blame bad infrastructure on racist white people.
What’s worse, there was another major derailment yesterday, this time in Michigan. And Buttigieg’s response is that these events are getting too much attention because, after all, there are 1000 cases of trains derailing per year.
Buttigieg: "While this horrible situation has gotten a particularly high amount of attention, there are roughly 1,000 cases a year of a train derailing."
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) February 16, 2023
I dunno. That sounds like a Department of Transportation problem rather than a rail company problem. That infrastructure bill sure sounds like a great way to fix some of these issues.
Buttigieg has been late to the party on virtually every major DOT and infrastructure issue since he took the job. This isn’t a case of someone who is doing a bad job. It’s a case of someone who isn’t doing the job at all. Instead of infrastructure issues, he’s busy touting electric vehicles and switching away from oil and gas (imagine the actual infrastructure issues when we no longer have petroleum to mix into our asphault or made our tires). He was sent out two weekends ago to tout Biden’s State of the Union address (because Kamala Harris might be MIA even more than Buttigieg is).
Nothing about his job is actually handled by him. His response to Ted Cruz and Ilhan Omar agreeing that Congress needs to investigate the East Palestine train crash was, essentially, “My hands are tied. Congress definitely should do something about this.”
Glad to see newfound bipartisan agreement here. We could start by discussing immediate steps Congress could take to address rail safety & reduce constraints on USDOT in this area. Give us a call, we can do some good work. https://t.co/aqepKENjZz
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 15, 2023
There’s an administration-wide accountability problem, but it seems to be at its worst in the Transportation Department. Pete Buttigieg isn’t doing a bad job. He’s not doing the job at all.