Cynical Synapse

Tue, 19 Jul 2011

House Republicans Use Flood Relief for Political Gain

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Government, Hypocrits, Passenger rail, Politics, Stimulus — cynicalsynapse @ 6:00 am

high speed rail awards

On Friday, 15 July, the US House voted to redirect high-speed rail funding to flood relief in the Midwest. In the balance is about $1 billion in high-speed rail funding Florida said no thanks to but which is not yet obligated to other projects even though the Department of Transportation has named new recipients. The vote on House Resolution 2354 was largely along party lines with 219 for (mostly Republicans, 196 opposed (mostly Democrats), and 16 not voting. The same is true for Michigan’s delegation, with only Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI-3) breaking party ranks. Rep. Mike Rodgers (R-MI-8) did not vote. Even though Rep. Mark Walbergh’s (R-MI-7) district stands to benefit, he voted to strip the high-speed rail money.

Before the vote, Rep. Louise Slaugher (D-NY) said redirecting the high-speed rail funding was “misguided”.

[Cutting high-speed rail funding] will eliminate thousands of jobs, will halt a large number of rail projects across the country and we are way behind every other nation, industrial nations anyway, and hurt local and station economies. This is the latest in the majority’s agenda that can best be described as penny-wise and pound-foolish. The high speed and intercity passenger rail program is critical to our country’s competitiveness. It puts Americans back to work, it revitalizes our construction and manufacturing sectors, boosts the domestic economy and helps in U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Amtrak Acela express train

Full disclosure: I am a rail enthusiast and it saddens me the US has a passenger rail system that even third world countries would denounce. In an effort to avoid full-body scanners at the airport, I found out it would take me 40 hours to get to Orland from Detroit by rail. Excuse me? Nonetheless, passing HR 2354 is unadulterated political grandstanding. It is unlikely the Senate will pass the bill, so House Republicans are simply using flood victims as human shields. And, even if the Senate did pass the House bill, Pres. Obama would probably veto it.

Amtrak is not perfect, but it suffers from a dirth of Amtrak haters in Congress. While politicians decry subsidizing Amtrak, how many billions are spent on airports, air traffic control, and highways every year? Conventional wisdom holds we cannot build our way out of road congestion. The US transportation network faces a lack of focus and strategic planning that seriously hampers the country’s global competitiveness. While there is a failure to integrate transportation planning and funding, there is also a lack of strategic foresight. This is exacerbated by the short-term mindsight of our elected officials who rarely see beyond the fiscal year, let alone to the far reaches of an entire term in office.

Previously on passenger rail:

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