The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, “has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies,” PoliticoThis report was published on October 14.
This is mildly funny because it doesn’t end until PoliticoReport, nobody noticed that Buttigieg was missing.
The Department of Transportation website has a section for speeches by Buttigieg. This was the latest one that was available on August 9.
Washington is known for its well-deserved reputation of shutting down during August for vacations of almost European proportions. Summer interns are left to complete their stay unsupervised in the city’s extreme humidity. This late-summer holiday was extended into October stealthily. It raises the question, “Would anyone notice if Mayor Pete and the Transportation Department’s 55,000 other employees vanished?”
The United States survived from its independence in 1776, to the passing of the Department of Transportation Act 1966. There was no secretary of transportation nor department of transport. Americans lived in both cities and in states that had their own transportation systems, even without a department of transportation. New York City’s subway was built. San Francisco had its own cable car system. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the transcontinental railroad, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels beneath Boston Harbor, the George Washington Bridge, the St. Lawrence Seaway—all were completed without the existence of a federal department of transportation.
Major infrastructure projects fell apart after the creation of this department. Although many people consider airline passenger safety a success, the Boeing 737 Max disaster and September 11th 2001 hijackings cast doubt on that.
The Commerce Department could return any truly essential functions to the Transportation Department with minimal fuss to states, counties and cities.
In 2011, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry attempted to propose closing three cabinet departments, but couldn’t remember the third one. As secretary of energy in Trump’s administration, he was responsible for a department that he supported but couldn’t remember during a live televised debate. Recent presidents have added government units—the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the Space Force—rather than shutting them down. Some exceptions were made. Reagan suggested that the Interstate Commerce Commission be abolished. It finally ended on January 1, 1996. The Civil Aeronautics Board was another federal agency which proved less important than it should have been by its demise.
Buttigieg, despite his young age and limited experience in South Bend as Mayor of Indiana was a welcome presence at the 2020 Democratic Presidential Campaign. At this stage, the best thing he can do for the country is to emulate the example of working parents like them who left the office to care more about their children. What if Buttigieg was to come back from paternity leave and tell his children that the man who ran the federal transportation agency didn’t miss it as much while he was away?
The cost savings from getting rid of the Department of Transportation—$80 billion or $90 billion a year—could go toward tax cuts, deficit reduction, or financing the rest of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. Biden’s and Buttigieg could gain a reputation for being capable and willing to work with Washington to improve the government.
Biden, his Allies in Congress Democrat, and others may be able to start by a smaller test. The Transportation Department employees should also be allowed to take two months off, as Secretary Buttigieg did. They might not be missed by anyone, so maybe it is better for them to return soon. The could seek out alternative work opportunities in the private sector.