It’s been just over one year now since Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stood before the National Press Club and said he’d just sent a proposal to the White House for a program to replace the then recently-ended cross border demonstration project and that he was ready to head to Capitol Hill to convince members of Congress that a new program was a go.
It’s been over three months now since LaHood told a Senate subcommittee that the Obama administration was “very near” a proposal that would meet Congress’ safety concerns.
It’s been over a month since LaHood told that same subcommittee that a new proposal was “very near.”
It’s been almost a month since President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met in Washington and reportedly discussed the cross border project.
It’s obvious there’s a big, big credibility issue here.
Based on a recent poll, most truckers appear to think the Obama administration is giving lip service to a new proposal, and some of them could care less.
In the poll, which appeared on our website trucker.com, 83 percent of the respondents answered “no” to the question “Do you think the Obama administration is serious about resolving the Mexico truck issue?”
Here are some of the comments they offered:
“What part of illegal doesn’t he understand?”
“We don’t want or need trucks from Mexico coming across the border into the U.S. They can stop at the border. U.S. truckers can pick them up there.”
“It’s all political.”
“It should not take so long if they are serious.”
“Why should he? There is no benefit to the U.S. truck drivers. I’m sure not going to go to Mexico because it’s not safe.”
“He wants those trucks up here to take our jobs.”
“The Obama administration is going to run the industry into the ground if we let him. Just look at last week’s fuel efficiency order. I don’t want his help with anything.”
One trucker who thought Obama is serious about a new program offered this comment:
“He is, but it will cost him dearly.”
Over the past year, there have been several members of Congress who’ve either written letters or issued comments urging the administration to get rolling with a new program.
The latest and most vocal in recent days has been Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The agriculture industry in her home state has been crushed by the tariffs Mexico imposed after the cross border program was ended in March 2009.
On May 18, Murray wrote Obama urging the president to discuss a new program with Calderon when the latter visited Washington that week.
On May 28, she followed up with a letter that read in part:
“…I believe now is the time to take the next step forward. I have discussed this issue with you, your administration, and the previous administration and believe that after the visit by President Calderon a path forward is available.
“The ongoing heavy tariffs imposed on 87 Washington products have exacerbated economic hardships in my state. Washington farmers specifically have been pushed from an already difficult climate into a far worse economic position. In the last year, the Mexican tariff on potatoes has caused U.S. frozen potato shipments to Mexico to decline by 50 percent while shipments of frozen potatoes from Canada to Mexico have increased by 60 percent. In practical terms this means a loss of over $14 million worth of Washington frozen potato exports since April 2009 and several hundred Washington state jobs. The potato industry is not alone. Washington state pear exports to Mexico dropped by 56 percent between 2008 and 2009 due to this tariff, a loss of over $8 million. Unless action is taken immediately there is a good chance that this shift in exports will lead to continued job losses and have a long-term impact on our economy.
“Mr. President, tens of thousands of jobs are supported by the Washington state potato and pear industries and these represent only two of the 87 products imperiled under tariffs unfairly aimed at my constituents. I urge you to resolve the dispute with Mexico and bring relief to Washington state farmers and the Washington state economy.”
Is a new plan very near or very close?
The Obama administration owes the American people some answers, including what happened to that proposal that LaHood said he sent to the White House over a year ago.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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