ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS…. To say that the United States has an infrastructure problem would be a serious understatement. We’re currently “saddled with a rapidly decaying and woefully underfunded transportation system,” which undermines our economy and weakens our position against global competitors.
A new bipartisan investigation found that U.S. investment in preservation and development of transportation infrastructure “lags so far behind that of China, Russia and European nations that it will lead to ‘a steady erosion of the social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.’”
That’s the bad news. The good news is, President Obama seems deeply interested in making infrastructure investments a real priority, and approves of the kind of policies the bipartisan panel of experts endorsed, including “continued development of high-speed rail systems better integrated with freight rail transportation, and expansion of intermodal policies rather than reliance on highways alone to move goods and people.”
So, there’s reason for optimism, right? Sure, we have a serious national problem, but we know how to fix it, and we have a White House that wants to do the right thing. Especially when it comes to high-speed rail, which has broad national appeal, the president has already begun making key investments.
But as is often the case, Republicans disapprove of the sensible policy.
Republicans running for governor in a handful of states could block, or significantly delay, one of President Obama’s signature initiatives: his plan to expand the passenger rail system and to develop the nation’s first bullet-train service.
In his State of the Union address this year, the president called for building high-speed rail, and backed up his words with $8 billion in stimulus money, distributed to various states, for rail projects.
But Republican candidates for governor in some of the states that won the biggest stimulus rail awards are reaching for the emergency brake.
Scott Walker (R) wants to kill the investment in Wisconsin, and includes a “we’ll stop this train” message in his campaign ads. John Kasich (R) wants to kill a project to link Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati by rail in Ohio. Rick Scott (R) wants to kill the rail project linking Orlando and Tampa in Florida. Meg Whitman (R) wants to kill the plan to link Los Angeles and San Francisco with HSR in California.
We’re talking about projects that create jobs, spur economic development, relieve traffic congestion, and help the environment, all while offering the promise of transforming American transportation in the 21st century.
But they’re not tax cuts, so Republicans aren’t on board.
In fairness, I should note that the bulk of the GOP objections have to do with complaints about infrastructure upkeep and maintenance, which the gubernatorial candidates don’t think their states can afford. Of course, as John Cole noted, “Turning down a billion dollar train because you will have to pay 8 million a year in maintenance is like giving away a free car because you might have to one day buy windshield wiper fluid.”
The Republican line used to be that they can keep the trains running on time. The new line is that they can’t keep the trains running at all.