Living in fear

Voters in and around Atlanta are currently considering a light-rail plan linking the city to nearby suburbs. It’s the kind of infrastructure plan many American cities have taken up over the years, and there’s nothing especially remarkable about this one.

Except, that is, what the Georgia Tea Party is arguing in trying to kill the plan. Tim Murphy flags a quote from the conservative group’s chairman, who’s warning against terrorist attacks.

“If anyone doesn’t believe me — England and Spain. Now, if we have a more decentralized mass transit system using buses, if the terrorists blow up a single bus, we can work around that. When they blow up a rail, that just brings the system to a grinding halt. So how much security are we going to have on this rail system, and how much will it cost?”

I can think of all kinds of reasons rail projects like these are worthwhile. They create jobs; they relieve overcrowded highways; they’re good for the environment; etc. These investments aren’t cheap, necessarily, but the benefits easily outweigh the costs.

But for local Tea Partiers, if Atlanta light rail might become a terrorist target, then Atlanta light rail is probably a mistake. As Murphy put it, the Georgia Tea Party chair is arguing that “because terrorists fantasize about blowing up American infrastructure, we should avoid spending any money on infrastructure.”

By that reasoning, we should consider every location known to have been targeted by terrorists — skyscrapers, stadiums, military bases, courthouses, airports — and avoid making these investments, too.

Or maybe we should consider ignoring Tea Partiers’ concerns, making needed investments, and not living in fear.