Radical, socialist infrastructure reaches Texas

If Republican rhetoric is to be believed, this is exactly the sort of public investment the GOP opposes and finds offensive. (via Jed Lewison)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has joined with Texas officials and railroad industry leaders to announce nearly $50 million in rail investments to bolster both passenger and freight service through the state, and jumpstart planning for high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

A $34 million TIGER II grant will fund major rail improvements on the Tower 55 project in Fort Worth, TX, and reduce traffic delays by 100,000 hours per year. […]

In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation also announced a $15 million high speed rail grant for Texas that will jumpstart engineering and environmental work on a high speed rail corridor linking two of the largest metro areas in the U.S., Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston.

We are, of course, supposed to believe this is an awful development. Public spending, infrastructure investment, using government to create jobs — the right believes these kinds of efforts aren’t just wrong, but also constitute some kind of nefarious socialist plot.

Notice, however, that GOP officials seem entirely pleased with the rail developments in Texas. Rick Perry’s administration appears to welcome the funding, and both Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn praised the infrastructure projects. Cornyn said, “These improvements will help ensure our state remains the economic leader it is while improving the safety and commute times of those within Fort Worth.”

A congresswoman in the area, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) praised the partnership between federal, state, and local officials, and said the rail investments “will create hundreds of jobs.” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said the projects will benefit the whole country.

Is that so.

Kevin Drum had an item last week, arguing that “hypocrisy allegations” lobbed at Republicans who accept money from federal programs they oppose “are pretty shoddy.” Once a spending measure passes and funds are available, even if a GOP official disagrees with the investments, “it would be serious malfeasance not to make sure your state gets its share of the goodies.”

That certainly makes sense. But my concern isn’t just the hypocrisy of Republicans decrying spending bills and then trying to direct that spending to their states and districts. My beef has more to do with their ideology: these same Republicans insist public investments can’t create jobs and are bad for the economy, and then also say public investments can create jobs and are good for the economy.

And that’s a problem, not of hypocrisy necessarily, but of an incoherent approach to governing.

I can fully appreciate the importance of fighting for a slice of a pie; after all, their taxpaying constituents are paying for these investments whether they like it or not. What gets me are the ideological arguments that are as wrong as they are cynical — public spending will undermine the economy, unless it’s in my area, in which case it will be good for the economy.