Trains For America

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A Conservative Investment: Why the Right Can Get Behind an Infrastructure Program

This is solid gold. Every rail advocate must read this powerful and persuasive opinion piece and pass it on to your Republican friends. Here is the editorial I wish the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (and countless other papers) had published last weekend.

Below is an argument that engages facts in the context of current events and respects the Reagan legacy.

I found it in the Washington Post. It explicitly favors high speed rail investment from a conservative economic perspective. Here is a brief sample and this is the link for an important viewpoint.

Economic conservatives recognize the difference between spending and investment. We view sound economic growth as the best way to promote prosperity and protect economic freedom. Infrastructure expenditures are capital investment for future growth. By investing in the reduction of air, automotive and rail congestion, and by improving the reliability of our power supply, we will increase productivity and foster competitiveness.

Conservatives also are the protectors and defenders of private enterprise. Companies invest today so they can grow tomorrow. A manufacturing CEO understands that he is not behaving responsibly if his company’s capital expenditures fall below annual depreciation for a sustained period, or if it invests less in its plant and equipment than competitors do. But this is exactly the scenario today: The average age of our water pipes is about 40 years. Many U.S. power plants were built in the 1950s. China is building the equivalent of one new world-scale (1,000 megawatt) power plant per week. Our transmission grid, with more than 180,000 miles of active high-voltage wire, is an outdated, balkanized patchwork of regional systems in multiple regulatory jurisdictions.

U.S. investment in infrastructure has fallen 50 percent since 1960, to 2 percent of gross domestic product. By contrast, China and Europe are budgeting 9 percent and 5 percent respectively as a share of GDP. The U.S. also lacks high-speed rail.

The author, Emil Henry Jr., was assistant secretary of the treasury from 2005 to 2007. His duties included oversight responsibility for Critical Infrastructure Protection. He is managing director of Neuberger Investment Management.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

4 Responses

  1. WilS says:

    I read this a few days ago somewhere else, and sent it to my friend, who is also a conservative and a supporter of the rail initiatives. This is good stuff.

  2. Jon K. says:

    A lot of conservatives still have to get over the non-fact-based ideological opposition to rail. Once they do, they will see that now is a very good time to invest in rail.

    Rail improvements will bring more bang for our taxpayer buck. Expanding our interstates will not induce the new investments we need. The same dollar amount spent on rail or transit will provide far more opportunities for private sector investment ad the jobs that go with it. Now is the time to build a national rail inrastructure!

  3. Cal says:

    What they need to get past is the real reason they have been against it ..and that is they see it as a Union/Democratic priority item even thou most big construction companies are probally Republican owned /leaning entities..Gov Schwarzenegger has a much greater understanding of the greater benifits to all with a modern HST system .

  4. Loren Petrich says:

    That editorialist seems like an Eisenhower Republican. President Eisenhower was noted for starting the Interstate system, and that editorialist wants the same for railroads.

    And as to politics, there is indeed the problem that the farthest-along systems are in reliably-Democratic areas. But some high-speed-train plans are for reliably-Republican areas like Texas, and if Republicans can get some of the bacon, er, pork, they won’t complain as much.

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December 2008


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