Trains For America

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Those BAD Democrats!

Here is a bit of a fine editorial in the International Herald Tribune by Thomas L. Friedman. It is a sound dressing down for the failed Bush administration, and also a kinder look at more traditional conservative and Republican values. You ought to read the while thing, but here is a good hot slice.

Yes, those silly Democrats. They’ll raise taxes for ANYTHING, even – get this – to pay for a war!

And if we did raise taxes to pay for our war to bring a measure of democracy to the Arab world, “does anyone seriously believe that the Democrats are going to end these new taxes that they’re asking the American people to pay at a time when it’s not necessary to pay them?” added Perino. “I just think it’s completely fiscally irresponsible.”

Friends, we are through the looking glass. It is now “fiscally irresponsible” to want to pay for a war with a tax.

THESE DEMOCRATS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND: THE TOOTH FAIRY PAYS FOR WARS. Of course she does – the tooth fairy leaves the money at the end of every month under Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s pillow. And what a big pillow it is! My God, what will the Democrats come up with next? Taxes to rebuild bridges or schools or high-speed rail or our lagging broadband networks? No, no, the tooth fairy covers all that.

She borrows the money from China and leaves it under Paulson’s pillow.

Of course, we can pay for the Iraq war without a tax increase. The question is, can we pay for it and be making the investments in infrastructure, science and education needed to propel our country into the 21st century? Visit Singapore, Japan, Korea, China or parts of Europe today and you’ll discover that the infrastructure in our country is not keeping pace with our peers’.

We can pay for anything today if we want to stop investing in tomorrow. The president has already slashed the National Institutes of Health research funding the past two years. His 2008 budget wants us to cut money for vocational training, infrastructure and many student aid programs.

Does the Bush team really believe that if we had a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax – which could reduce our dependence on Middle East oil dictators AND reduce payroll taxes for low-income workers, pay down the deficit and fund the development of renewable energy – we would be worse off as a country?

Excuse me, Ms. Perino, but I wish Republicans would revert to type.

I thought they were, well, conservatives – the kind of people who saved for rainy days, who invested in tomorrow for their kids, folks who didn’t believe in free lunches or free wars.

No wonder The Wall Street Journal had a story Tuesday headlined, “GOP Is Losing Grip on Core Business Vote.” It noted that traditional fiscal conservatives were defecting from the Republican Party, “angered by the growth of government spending during the six years that Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.”

And no wonder Alan Greenspan told The Journal: “The Republican Party, which ruled the House, the Senate and the presidency, I no longer recognize.”

Of course, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the Democrat David Obey, in proposing an Iraq war tax to help balance the budget was expressing his displeasure with the war. But he was also making a very important point when he said, “If this war is important enough to fight, then it ought to be important enough to pay for.”

The struggle against radical Islam is the fight of our generation. We all need to pitch in – not charge it on our children’s Visa cards.

Previous American generations connected with our troops by making sacrifices at home. We have never passed on the entire cost of a war to the next generation, said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who has written a history – “The Price of Liberty” – about how America has paid for its wars since 1776.

“In every major war we have fought in the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Hormats, “Americans have been asked to pay higher taxes – and nonessential programs have been cut – to support the military effort. Yet during this Iraq war, taxes have been lowered and domestic spending has climbed. In contrast to World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, for most Americans this conflict has entailed no economic sacrifice. The only people really sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families.”

In his celebrated Farewell Address, Hormats noted, George Washington warned against “ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burdens we ourselves ought to bear.”

And, DO NOT misinterpret this item’s inclusion here. Both major parties are totally subservient to the corporate special interests which strangle the most urgent needs of the country. Only the voice of the people has will have any impact on the self-satisfied chair warmers.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

The Texas NARP meeting

The Texas NARP meeting is over and here is what I know. Of course, all of this is according to usually reliable sources.

The idea of a Crescent reroute through Mobile is absurd beyond belief. Amtrak denies. It sounded credible.

The sense that I am hearing is that the Crescent extension to San Antonio is dying under its’ own weight .Too many logistical obstacles stand in the way.

Now, a few opinions.

The chat lists have been buzzing over the rumors generated from another site. Perhaps, when whispers of the Mobile reroute first started spinning, it seemed more possible. Sometimes stories just take on a life of their own. Even for Amtrak, it would have been an amazing stroke of bad public relations to strike out at two small Mississippi cities which have made substantial station investments, not to mention Senator Trent Lott.

Most of us understand that, instead of desperate publicity stunts designed to get corporate management off the hot seat, Amtrak needs some intelligent growth and innovation. Even IF lengthening the Crescent to San Antonio were a good idea, it is impossible due to 1.) a lack of rolling stock and 2.) shamefully inadaquate station faciliites in one of America’s largest cities and best travel destinations.

Amtrak does not need deck chair reshuffling, like the Titanic. The passenger service needs better stations and more equipment. Apparently top management, under a chairman whose only qualification is being a $100,000 Bush contributor, is afraid (or explicitly forbidden) to tell Congress the real needs.

The condition of Amtrak, not necessarily the best run corporation in world history, is a national disgrace and it is being run in the ground by greedy Bushite neo-cons and simple minded politicians.

Amtrak needs a major capital program and inclusion in the national transportation plan (if there is such a thing) along side the Interstate II program. Of course, I am speaking rhetorically about the “national transportation plan.” Today, that is little more than the “whim list” of truckers and airlines.

All this brings us around to Alex Kummant’s letter to Amtrak employees in which he extols the virtues of corridors. As one who has been accused of being a “corridorist,” that is the wave of the future and Amtrak is (for the most part) not a principal player. States and investors will develop some true High Speed Rail. The most Amtrak can hope for is to be the “operator” of services managed by others.

Amtrak is best suited to operate long distance passenger trains, and that is an essential function. For places like Arkadelphia and Poplar Bluff, that is the best form of intercity transportation available. It is not a luxury or a frill, but a practical way to move folks around.

Federal and state governments must stop the destructive neglect of urgent infrastructure problems.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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