Thursday, October 31, 2013

Time to Hit the (Overton) Window on Transportation Funding

Earlier this year I wrote a piece (here) about how an effort to radically change the Washington debate on Social Security benefits (don’t cut them, increase them!) could be used as a model for recasting the debate (or lack thereof) on transportation funding.
Now comes a new story (here) explaining how the effort to change the Social Security debate was consciously crafted to change the “Overton Window.”  The supershort explanation of the Overton Window is that public policy options are considered to be serious only if they fit within a narrow window of acceptability (the Overton Window).  So in the field of transportation finance, the conventional wisdom is that increasing taxes for transportation is politically infeasible and therefore is not a serious option.  That option is not within the current Overton Window.  Since all the “serious” options – within the current Overton Window – lead only to national decline, my answer (from the earlier piece) is: move the goalposts!  Or, in Overton parlance: widen the Overton window!

Whatever parlance or metaphor you prefer, it seems to me to be time to stop accepting failure as an option, let alone as a decree of the Fates.

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