Sunday Train: Republican Great Train Robberies

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Freedom

Two stories over the last week underlined the determination of the radical right wing that dominates the Republican Party to sabotage America’s future and betray our national security and the interests of our children and grandchildren:

Its All About (Killing) Jobs

I wrote last week on decoding the secret language used by the Republicans to describe their Decimate Transportation Act (NB. pointer by value rather than name … and while I focused on the way that the effort is being made to focus the budget cuts on cities and rural areas and focus as much of the spending as possible in suburban areas …

… as far as the jobs go, the places where they are making the concrete, the heavy construction machinery, and all of the rest of the inputs purchased by the people doing the projects get hit just as badly no matter where how the remaining funds are directed.

Now, the US Chamber of Commerce supports the screwing of US urban and rural areas at the expense of suburban areas:

… while [Rep. Mica’s] legislation tracks the Chamber’s recommendations for reauthorization …

… even they do not support the massive downsizing in the overall transportation budget:

“It is clear the Committee has been constrained by the House-passed budget as the investment levels are unacceptable. Cuts will destroy – rather than support – existing jobs and will not enable creation of the additional jobs needed to put the 16.3% of unemployed workers in the construction industry back to work,” said Kavinoky.

Mica argues that the Chamber does not understand “fiscal realities” ~ despite the well know branding of opposition to Chamber positions as “anti-business” when the Chamber says something that the Republicans want to pass. And what is the fiscal reality that Mica is fretting about?

Congress will not support a gas tax increase, and this proposal does not raise taxes. Without an increase in revenue, other current options, such as a two-year bill, the Administrations’ proposal, or extending expired law at the current funding levels, all lead to the Highway Trust Fund going broke by 2013.

And what happens after the Highway Trust Fund “goes broke”? The next year more gas taxes are collected and they go into the trust fund.

In other words, the way Mica describe the Highway Trust Fund, you’d think it was like the trust funds held by the trust fund babies who clutter up official Washington DC: when the fund goes broke, the money is finished.

But in reality, with 140,000 jobs at stake, a House that was focused on “jobs, jobs, jobs” would:

  • Raise general fund revenues and spend them, and/or
  • identify a new dedicated revenue source, like a 50% windfall profits tax on oil produced from Federal land, and/or
  • Cut back on spending that is much less effective at generating jobs, like closing European armed service bases
  • Or, indeed, deficit spend.

We already have a massive Infrastructure Deficit, and losing 140,000 jobs now to increase our Infrastructure Deficit throughout the Teens is long term economic sabotage and, when the impact on our capacity to defend our national interests is taken into account, tantamount to treason.

SO there is one Great Train Robbery: Stealing Jobs Now to Steal Our Future.

HSR Is Dead, (except not really) …

Ever since a minority of HSR projects funded by Stimulus II and the following year’s annual appropriation were canceled by three Taxing Except the Affluent (TEA) Party Republican Governors … its been a propaganda talking point on the right to pretend that High Speed Rail has been “killed”.

They even conned Aaron Renn, the @urbanophile into writing about the Death of HSR. However, as Alon Levy capably argues, the Rumors of HSR’s Death have been Greatly Exaggerated:

Fortunately, in California, the real obstacle is so far not a huge deal (California is planning to run on dedicated tracks, or at least on tracks shared only with commuter trains), and the ephemeral obstacle lost the gubernatorial election. Money is a problem and so is incompetence, but the incompetence seems to be waning, albeit slowly, and the money is likely to materialize. Don’t count HSR out yet

Alon agrees with Aaron on the talking point that the HSR money was spread too widely, but that is given the lie by the actions of the very Tax Exceptions for the Affluent Party Republican Governors: while two Rapid Passenger Rail projects and one Express HSR project was canceled, three Rapid Passenger Rail projects and one Express HSR project was not, and the immediate result of the Tax Exceptions for the Affluent Republican Governors action was to put more money into states that were still committed to pursuing their projects.

Indeed, “concentrating the money” was how the last push to get HSR off the ground was derailed in the US, with the money being concentrated into the Northeast Corridor, where it could be safely contained. That seems to be the strategy for derailing the current push to establish HSR … get it sidetracked into a Northeast Corridor Only strategy, where it can be painted as something that can only work at the population densities of the Northeast Corridor.

Now, the population density argument is silly. Ohio has the population density of Germany. California has the population density of Spain. The notion that HSR is limited to the population densities of the Northeast Corridor is laughably out of touch with reality.

However, so long as people can be prevented from experiencing it, they can continue to imagine that trains as fast or faster than driving, and in many cases with door to door travel speeds as fast as flying, will somehow not work anywhere west or south of Washington DC.

Which is why the continued projects in Virginia and North Carolina, Illinois connecting to St Louis, the Pacific Northwest, and California are such a threat. And, indeed, why the strategy of spreading the spending around was a success: it started up too many distinct projects for the Tax Exceptions for the Affluent Party to be able to kill them all.

Wait, HSR Is Not Dead Yet … In Fact, Its Feeling Better …

Part of the point of spreading the deliberate lie that HSR is dead is to distract potential supporters from defending against new attacks. After all, if its dead, there’s no reason to defend against efforts to kill it.

This brings to mind the scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where someone is is “Not Dead Yet” (a young prince once, to the right an erstwhile plague victim), then “Feeling Better”, then killed off to make sure there is no inconvenient recovery.

And right on schedule, while the Department of Transport is trying to finalize arrangements to obligate the funds handed back by the Tax Exceptions for the Affluent Party Governors, the Republican House proposes to rescind $2.3b of Stimulus Funds not yet obligated, including $1.6b in Transport funds … on the argument that we need to provide funding for relief from economic disasters.

Stimulus spending on infrastructure was the portion of the Stimulus that was most effective at creating jobs. So the pattern holds true here as well: the Republican Plan is to steal jobs today in order to steal infrastructure from our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

And why is it “necessary” to steal jobs from the present and infrastructure from the future for disaster relief? Because the Republican extremists in the House decided to offer that as the deal.

Call Your Fracking Senator

What can be done about the Great Republican Train Robberies? Call Your Senator. Hell, on the Transport Budget, you can call your Senator even if you are stuck with a Republican Senator. “The US Chamber of Commerce has pointed out that the House Transport Bill will cost thousands of jobs. Its up to you to stop this job-killing, anti-business bill.”

And certainly the threat that the Trust Fund will run dry sometime in 2013 is only a serious threat if we are lumbered with the same radical right wing Republican House, so if you are fortunate enough to have a Tax Exceptions for the Affluent Party Representative somewhere in your local area, you can start organizing locally to save present jobs and our children’s infrastructure from the Great Republican Train Robberies.

You can also join Transportation for America, and follow their blog, to help support the fightback against the next Great Republican Train Robbery (or Great Democratic Train Robbery, if the Democratic caucus takes it into their head to get in on the act).

Midnight Oil ~ Blue Sky Mining


  1. … to recreate might not actually be the one that really existed.

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