Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Conservative rail advocate, Paul Weyrich, dies

The New York Times online has the news. He has a sordid grab bag of lamentable beliefs, but he was strictly right on transit and intercity rail.

Published: December 18, 2008

Filed at 12:29 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservative activist Paul Weyrich, who coined the phrase ”moral majority” and helped turn social conservatives into a powerful force in the Republican Party, died Thursday. He was 66.

Weyrich’s death was announced by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think thank that he had helped to create.

One of the discussin groups highlighted the last Weyrich column on transportation. His enlightened and intelligent approach should guide conservative thought.

As talk about infrastructure stimulus heats up and as state leaders opportunity to advance new transportation goals in Wisconsin that meet the challenges of the 21st century. In addition to spurring ourprepare a wish list of projects to propose, we have a historiceconomy, targeted and wise infrastructure stimulus investments should help to solve our biggest transportation problems and produce real results for the long haul.

It is not enough to simply spend money. As many have pointed out,
America’s transportation system isn’t just broke, it’s also broken.
And Congress would be wrong to assume that with transportation more is always better. On the contrary, transportation contributes to many of America’s most pressing problems.

Our transportation system is the chief source of our nation’s
addiction to oil, consuming two out of every three barrels, and
leaving America vulnerable to volatile prices and hostile foreign regimes.

Each year Americans waste billions of dollars and millions of
hours stuck in traffic – a problem that is often made worse by
construction of new highways.

Too many transportation projects like Alaska’s infamous “Bridge toNowhere” have been embarrassing boondoggles that erode confidence in government and divert dollars from more productive uses. Clearly, not every infrastructure dollar is equally well spent. Asdepartments of transportation across the country eagerly offer wish lists, what rules should be established?
There must be a commitment to spend for results rather than simply to inject dollars into the economy. The current federal transportation
system primarily collects gas taxes from the states and then pumps
those dollars back based on outdated formulas forged by political
compromises that had nothing to do with achieving national goals.
For decades, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on
highway projects with little evaluation and no accountability. That
must change. Spending must be based on allocating dollars where they will yield the greatest results and guided by clear goals for what the transportation system should accomplish.
Thus the next Congress should spend taxpayers’ money more wisely by focusing transportation dollars on solving our nation’s biggest
problems. Federal transportation money should be spent only on
projects that produce real results over the long haul – for example,
by reducing our dependence on oil, alleviating congestion, improving
safety and supporting healthy, sustainable communities.
For its part, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and other
state DOTs should report on the results of how transportation stimulus money was spent. That sounds like common sense, but it would actually be a major advance. States should report back on the extent to which the projects funded with stimulus money increased or decreased jobs, energy security, carbon dioxide emissions and vehicle miles traveled.
This accountability will help make sure money is not misspent.
In doing so, a transportation stimulus should move the nation toward a vision of the future and also protect the nation’s existing
transportation assets. Emphasis should be placed on expanding clean, efficient transportation choices for Americans by prioritizing
investment of new funds for street cars, light rail, commuter rail,
rapid bus service, high-speed intercity rail and other forms of modern
public transportation. The stimulus should allocate at least as much
money to these transportation choices as to roads and highways. Doing so will encourage transportation investments that build dynamic and accessible communities, where more Americans can walk, bike or take transit to get where they need to go. Meanwhile, stimulus money allocated to highways and bridges must first address long-deferred maintenance and repair projects instead of new highway expansions.
Here in Wisconsin, a stimulus package could put people to work on
vital projects we will need for the future, such as the Kenosha-Racine- Milwaukee commuter rail line, high speed intercity
rail that connects our major metropolitan areas and fixing Wisconsin’s 1,300 structurally deficient bridges. These aren’t just good jobs programs to get through the recession. These are projects that will improve our economy for the 21st century.
By ensuring that infrastructure stimulus money is spent wisely, we
can ensure that Americans put back to work today can feel proud of
what they’ve built for the future.

Bruce Speight is an Advocate with the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, http://www.wispirg. org.
Kenosha Streetcar Society member Paul M. Weyrich, a Racine native, is chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.

ANOTHER VIEW: The Guardian has a rather settling analysis of Weyrich’s life and accomplishments. Not all rosy stuff. Moreover, Ian Williams’ fine column links to TFA, for which we are appreciative. Here is a tasty sample and the necessary link for the feast.

And the interesting thing about the rabid anti-communist radicals like Weyrich was how they emulated the unscrupulousness of the Third International in going after their targets with a combination of absolute ruthlessness and manipulation of front organisations. From the persecution of Bill Clinton (for all the wrong reasons) to the swiftboating of John Kerry, his cabal of cheque-wielders were behind the plots.

In triumphant mode at Bush’s re-election, Weyrich declared: “There are 1,500 conservative radio talkshow hosts. You have Fox News. You have the internet, where all the successful sites are conservative. The ability to reach people with our point of view is like nothing we have ever seen before!”

And yet, reality has this gravitational effect. It is entirely fitting that as he shuffles off his mortal coil, we can look around and see why Americans looked on his works and despaired. The shoe is on the other foot as protégée George Bush shuffles shame-faced off the world stage. The meltdown of the casino economy, the nadir of American prestige, the stalemate in Iraq and Afghanistan – these are all suitable epitaphs for the world Weyrich made.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

3 Responses

  1. […] an even more telling tale. Weyrich, like the proverbial stopped clock, was occasionally right. He supported trains for transport. However, it was for the wrong reasons, since he apparently gave as one of his reasons that white […]

  2. […] an even more telling tale. Weyrich, like the proverbial stopped clock, was occasionally right. He supported trains for transport. However, it was for the wrong reasons, since he apparently gave as one of his reasons that white […]

  3. Claude says:

    I can’t help wondering about those happy few who are obsessed with race in any discussion.
    Weyrich’s point wasn’t that rail travel benefits whites over minorities, It was that rail transit wasn’t just a welfare program for only poor people.
    Rail travel is an attractive option for everyone, not a last resort for those who have no choice. It asks the same of everyone who rides and gives no favor for any class. It is truly a public accommodation rather than a giveaway for a few.

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