Trump Selects Elaine J. Chao, former Labor Secretary, as Transportation Secretary

Elaine Chao served all eight years as President George W. Bush's former Secretary of Labor and also under his father's administration as Deputy Secretary of Transportation. She is married to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

2 minute read

December 1, 2016, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Trump has added more diversity to his cabinet by selecting another woman, after selecting Betsy DeVos and Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C) as Education Secretary and ambassador to the United Nations, respectively. Like Haley, Chao is Asian, but unlike Gov. Haley, who is of Indian heritage but born in South Carolina, the 63-year-old Chao was born in Taiwan, immigrating to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was eight years old, according to Wikipedia.

Trump's selection of Chao was described by New York Times reporters Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman as "elevating someone whose background and experience are in many respects completely at odds with the brash and disruptive tenor of his anti-Washington campaign.

In addition to her prior roles as cabinet secretaries under both Bush administrations, Chao "was a White House fellow under President Ronald Reagan and the director of the Peace Corps under President George Bush," add Peters and Haberman. "She has worked for Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as well as the conservative Heritage Foundation (and) also a frequent commentator for Fox News."

The Heritage Foundation is arguably the most outspoken advocate of devolution, a term whose derivation was described in a post last year as "what many conservatives want today—eliminating the role of the federal government [in transportation] and turning it over to the states." The result would be to "roll back the 18.4 cent federal gas tax, unchanged since 1993, to 3.7 cents per gallon."

On a more positive note, Planetizen notes that Taiwan has had high-speed rail since 2007. "At the time it was built, this was one of the world's largest privately funded rail construction schemes," according to Wikipedia. "The system is based primarily on Japan's Shinkansen technology."

The same scenario is taking place in the U.S. now. The privately funded Texas Central is building the Texas Bullet Train, the Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail line which will operate Shinkansen trains. Then again, this could very well be bad news for publicly-financed rail projects hoping to receive federal funding. We'll see.

Considering that President-elect Donald Trump plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects, the selection of Chao is an important one for Trump if he is to succeed in "making American great again." If not that, at least improving this country's low score (D+) on the state of its infrastructure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 in The New York Times

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