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Danger Signs By: Tait Trussell
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On the sides of America's highways, the Obama administration is tooting its own horn.

The Obama administration is so eager to make Americans believe its economic stimulus law is working, it is erecting signs proclaiming each new road repair or construction project is funded by the stimulus law. The Federal Highway Commission said in a sign-guidance statement: “President Obama made the commitment that all projects funded by the American Recovery and Investment Act (ARRA) will bear a recovery emblem to make it easier for Americans to see which projects are funded by the ARRA.”   

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-MI, has said on the House floor, “Upon entering a construction zone in Michigan. the federal government is mandating that you know where the funding originated by forcing” local governments “to post notification at stimulus-funded sites.” Some $92 million will be spent in street and highway projects in four counties in Michigan alone. 

Hoekstra states each sign costs $1,000, although a DOT spokesperson holds in some states, signs will cost less. Depending on the size of the project, multiple signs may be required. So, publicizing thousands of projects will cost many millions of additional dollars – which, needless to say, won’t provide a whit of stimulus. 

The signs, touting The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, must be designed to meticulous federally dictated standards as to their size, design, colors, and wording. Each sign is to bear, in large type: “PROJECT FUNDED BY THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT.” Atop each sign is another sign 10 feet by two feet with government-dictated precise dimensions as to placement of the wording and art. It says in bold letters “PUTTING AMERICA TO WORK” – as if no other Americans were employed in the private sector.  (See a picture here.)

Apparently, this is what Vice President Joe Biden, who was given charge of implementing the stimulus program, meant when he said, “We know some of the money is going to be wasted.” Score one for Biden.  

Actually, score two. The federal government will spend $18 million of stimulus funds to overhaul the Recovery.gov website “to help taxpayers see where their dollars are being spent.” An Obama administration spokesperson called this a “major milestone.” 

Both measures provide no stimulus whatsoever but serve to create an erroneous link between big government spending and “economic growth.” Both measures seem more designed to popularize Keynesian waste than improving the ailing economy. And both arguments for leftist economics are funded at taxpayer expense.   

If wasteful, the signs will certainly be eye-catching. Each sign is to have a white “retroreflective” border. The upper background is blue “retroreflective.” The lower right background is red “retroflective.” The background in the lower left part of the seal is green “retroreflective. The signs will bear the official emblem of the recovery act, which has stars, interlocking gears, and a plant with the word “recovery.gov” inside the circled seal. USDOT, standing for the U.S. Department of Transportation is depicted to the right of the seal. Under the USDOT designation is the word “TIGER, a vector-based vinyl-ready pictograph.” TIGER stands for “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. The word is appropriately striped (like a…tiger).  

Such large, colorful signs are a sure distraction to drivers careening along the nation’s busy highways.  Distraction is a “major contributor to highway crashes,” according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study. “Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some sort of driver inattention within three seconds before the event,” said the landmark NHTSA report. Fully 29 percent of drivers in crashes were distracted by outside events or objects…such as a big new, “retroflective” sign. “Looking at an external object” increased the risk of a crash or near crash by 3.7 times.   

This kind of distraction was most likely to afflict elderly drivers – and those driving near them. The NHTSA found “those age 65 and older” were “[m]ost likely to be involved in distraction-related crashes.” A RAND Corp. study found senior citizens, because they are already frail, are nearly seven times more likely than younger drivers to be killed in an accident.   

Obama's policies have already contributed to carnage on the roadways. The National Research Council found that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) rules forcing the manufacture of smaller cars made with lighter materials contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year. The small, fuel-efficient “green” cars Obama is urging Americans to buy are more dangerous in crashes.  

Perhaps these wasteful policies, and their dangerous unintended side effects, will increase support for Obama’s most cherished government program: national health care.

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