Frivolous? Not in the national interest?
— On July 7, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced that his proposed long-term federal transportation bill will eliminate dedicated funding for projects that encourage bicycling and walking. He referred to these programs as “not in the national interest.”
In the Senate, lead negotiator James Inhofe, R-Okla., declared that one of his top three priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate “frivolous spending for bike trails.”
— In a 1998 book, Bill Bryson wrote about a trek along the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, an old buddy from Iowa. Here’s a passage from the book, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, that caught my attention:
“Now here’s a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days —- that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls — adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That’s ridiculous.”
— Then there’s this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“In 2008, overall medical care costs related to obesity for U.S. adults were estimated to be as high as $147 billion. People who were obese had medical costs that were $1,429 higher than the cost for people of normal body weight. Obesity also has been linked with reduced worker productivity and chronic absence from work.”
— More statistics from the CDC: “23.6 million people in the United States (7.8% of the total population) have diabetes. Of these, 5.7 million have undiagnosed diabetes. In 2007, about 1.6 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older.”
And Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes cases, says the CDC, “is linked to obesity and physical inactivity.”
So Republican congressional leaders consider projects that encourage bicycling and hiking as “frivolous” and “not in the national interest”?
What’s wrong with this picture?