Friday, February 24, 2006


Dubya Dubai II

Well, at least someone pro-Dubai ports deal shows some political sense (or recognizes reality). Of course, it would be Dubai Ports World itself: The firm has voluntarily requested a delay on the takeover of the ports. This is one of those rare times when delay does not equal defeat. Indeed, a delay is the only chance that the administration has to try to save this deal by taking another crack at Congress and the public.

It's still going to be tough, in an election year, to get Congress to go along with this. But, at least the inflamed rhetoric coming from Republicans should subside.

In the meantime, while I've been strongly critical on this deal as a matter of process and political savvy (i.e. lack thereof on the part of the administration), I'm not sure how I feel about this as a matter of policy.

My invaluable reader ERA points me to this
interesting post that provides a great snapshot on how globalization impacts America's commercial byways in various forms.

From the AP via the Columbus Dispatch:
Indiana officials hope to sign a lease this spring with a Spanish-Australian partnership that would operate [I-90] for a profit for the next 75 years.
The company would keep all toll revenue. In return, it would be responsible for maintenance, improvements and other operating costs, and would pay the state $3.85 billion up front - money that would go toward other road and bridge projects.


Privately operated toll roads are slowly catching on in the United States after decades of popularity in Europe and, more recently, South America, Australia and other nations. The roads are attractive to investors because they offer long-term, stable revenue from tolls. Last year, Chicago became the first U.S. government entity to lease an existing tollway to private investors. The city turned over the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway to the same Spanish-Australian consortium for 99 years in exchange for $1.83 billion.

By this fall, about 30 of the 5,244 miles of U.S. toll roads will be run by private operators - the Chicago Skyway, the Dulles Greenway in northern Virginia and the South BayExpressway, expected to open this fall near San Diego, said Patrick Jones,
executive director of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.
As ERA adds:

We let foreigners control our road!!!!!!!!!!! The horror!!!!!! You know how much commerce goes over our roads!!!!

But, you know what? Our security hasn't been compromised by foreigners running our roads.
America needs to understand -- this is the price of victory. If we are going to bring more and more rogue nations into the community of civilized nations, we are going to have to recognize the right of other nations to engage in global commerce. Our nation is looking at total economic collapse if foreign investors begin believing they and their money is not wanted here. I'm sure this deal might not be good for the Longshoremen's Union, but it is good for America.

Unfortunately it is a political year and the Administration blew the free trade argument again.
I think ERA is right: On policy grounds, open markets and open investment "is the price of victory." However, the backlash the administration is facing is, politically, the price of an arrogant high-handed attitude across-the-board. On major issues, it has repeatedly taken the viewpoint that "Ideals and philosophy are all; process is nothing." The admininstration repeatedly demonstrate a disdain for any sense of partnership in matters involving civil liberties or foreign affairs.

This administration has told the courts to stay out of civil liberties matters and either ignored Congress (on, say, the FISA court) or
interpreted Congress' will for its own ends (asserting that the post-9/11 congressional resolution gives the president essentially unlimited, unilateral powers during "wartime").

After four years of telling Congress and the American people that the country is involved in "a different kind of war," why should the president and his advisers be suddenly surprised that people's elected representatives (for whatever reason) dismiss an argument that a deal involving America's ports should be casually approved because of sound economic reasons. That argument -- if put forward by a critic of the administration -- could have, at one time be categorized as being evidence of a "pre-9/11 mentality."

Add that to a White House that seems terminally unable to do the everyday basics of cooperating with Congress and you have a recipe for disaster.

The Dubai ports deal mess is the most obvious symptom from this growing dysfunctional relationship. As ERA suggests, free trade and foreign investment in the U.S. in general -- which is what has been propping up the economy over the last few years -- may be the most significant victim.

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