GOP critic calls Joe Biden's $53 billion high-speed rail plan 'insanity'
This post would never make it on Skyword. It's way too much opinion, even if it is fact-based. So-o-o-o-o... that's OK. I'm looking for discussion anyway, so I'm posting it here.
A couple of days ago, Vice President Joe Biden did, in fact, stand in the Washington DC Amtrak station and announce that, as a part of its plan to upgrade and restore America's infrastructure, the Administration was looking for a spend of about $53 billion over the next six years... on high-speed rail. And wouldn't you know, faster than a European Bullet Train came the Republican dismissal... with the now-obligatory casual insults.
House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida said previous administration grants to high-speed rail projects were a failure, producing "snail speed trains to nowhere." He called Amtrak a "Soviet-style train system" and said it "hijacked" nearly all the administration's rail projects. What? He couldn't find a Hitler reference?
Meanwhile, Railroads Subcommittee Chair Rep. Bill Shuster (R) of Pennsylvania said Mr. Biden's plan was "insanity," adding: "Rail projects that are not economically sound will not 'win the future' " – coopting the slogan President Obama coined in his State of the Union address. Yep, "insanity," that's what he said... not "mistaken," not "over-reaching," not anything that might beconsidered a 'reasoned' response, but... "insanity."
Leaving aside the "...most important job is to make Obama fail..." part of this, hard as it is for me to do that, it's the "only private enterprise can do this" part of their argument that makes the least sense. Private enterprise may or may not need to be part of the mix (the government has no heavy construction companies of its own, after all), but they'll never do it alone. They never have, and they never will. The rail companies didn't build the trans-continental railroad without government driving it and financing it. Private trucking companies didn't build the interstate highway system, and airlines didn't build the airports.
"ROFLMAO Chuck," I hear you say, "they did too." And then there's a long yammer about airline taxes and fuel taxes (a favorite target of Sean Hannity when he bitches about gas prices), and truck-licensing fees, and... Never mind folks, it all amounts to one government program or another, with targeted federal taxes to pay for it. Rail companies tried more than once to build an intracontinental rail web... and failed every time. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was originally built using rail tunnels left by the rail company that went bankrupt trying to get across the Allegheny Mountains to the Midwest (specifically, Ohio).
Government has ALWAYS ultimately built the infrastructure upon which commerce travels. Oh, there have been turnpikes of limited distance, ferries, and local rail lines, but the big transportation projects were ALWAYS government projects... until rail failed. In the '70s, almost every railroad company declared bankruptcy. It was almost a simultaneous act. Track and railbed maintenance was killing them, and passenger fare and freight rate regulations were the coup de gras.
As soon as railroads began asking for a federal program to upgrade the rail infrastructure, trucking interests and passenger airline interests blocked from the rail companies the same federal assistance that made THEIR existence possible. So the Department of Transportation cobbled together Conrail and Amtrak, deregulated Conrail's freight rates, subsidized Amtrak, refused to allow it to charge competitive rates, and made it the poster child for government mismanagement... of business OPERATION!
And THAT'S the r-r-r-rest of the story folks. Government shouldn't be OPERATING any business on more than a temporary, survival, basis (yep, like GM and Chrysler), but it SHOULD build a truly modern and functional high speed rail system, just as it did the Interstate Highway system and the network of regional, national and international airports.