Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why do Tea Partiers hate high-speed rail?

In the first Silly Sustainability Saturday, I quoted an article from the St. Petersburg Times: Tea party members tackle a new issue: manatees.
Everybody knows what the tea party members oppose. High taxes. Big government. Obama's health care plan. High-speed rail.
That same article was reposted to Oh No They Didn't Political on LiveJournal. LJ user cecilia_ weasley started a thread by asking "why would Tea Partiers be opposed to high-speed rail. I gave a slightly smart-aleck response, "After all, haven't they read "Atlas Shrugged"?  It's all about railroads!" To which cecilia_weasley replied:
I haven't read that yet, I barely could read The Fountainhead. (ugh) But seriously, why would anyone oppose developing infrastructure? Making it easier for people to get from A to B? IDGI Americans, pls to help me.
I finally have an answer for her, but LiveJournal is under a DDoS attack and I can't post there right now, so I'll post a link and extract here.

Alternet: Why Do Conservatives Hate High-Speed Rail? 5 Reasons Right-Wingers Are Sabotaging Public Transportation Projects
In addition to busting unions and gutting voting rights, Tea Party governors are refusing federal funding for high-speed rail. What do they have against it?

By Sarah Jaffe
July 22, 2011
High-speed rail is one of the rare areas where business, labor, and environmental activists are often in agreement. Republican transportation secretary Ray LaHood is a fan, as are, of course, President Obama and Vice-President Biden.

But Tea Party-supported governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida have made headlines by refusing billions in federal stimulus dollars aimed at creating new high-speed train lines between major cities.

The trains would be electric-powered, providing comparable travel times to regional plane flights but cheaper, running on cleaner energy, and without the same security concerns. Real estate developers and other business types saw new rail lines as an opportunity to invest in new places, and the rail projects would create both construction jobs and permanent jobs operating and maintaining the new trains.

So what's the problem? Why do conservatives hate high-speed rail so much? They claim it's all about money, but handing back billions in federal dollars while claiming to be broke doesn't seem to make much fiscal sense. We did a little research, and here's what we found:

1. Big infrastructure projects leave a big legacy--and this one would belong to President Obama.
2. Union jobs
3. Collectivism! Socialism!
4. 'Urban' vs. 'Rural'
5. High-speed rail will change our lifestyles—and we like them!
Our society will be fundamentally shaped by a major change in our transportation and infrastructure like a new high-speed rail system. And that's not a bad thing, as we face down global climate change as well as bedrock changes in our economic system.

It would be a bad thing, though, if conservative politicians and fearful voters shut down innovative technologies that could help us live more sustainably and justify their refusal to change by claiming concern for spending. The lack of willingness to invest in forward-looking programs like high-speed rail shows the utter lack of positive ideas at the base of today's Republican party.
Please read the whole article at the source, as it has a wealth of supporting information for those five bullet points.

If you want another perspective, I posted the link and an excerpt from the St. Petersburg Times article on JournalFen as Tea Party Patriots now against manatees; think it's a UN conspiracy. Twenty-seven comments later, the facepalming is deafening.

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