Posts tagged ‘High-Speed Rail’

06/11/2012

High-Speed Rail: Why Opposed by Right?

It’s always surprising when high-speed rail projects are rejected by people who call themselves conservatives, since they are, when compared to cars, a much more efficient mode of transportation.

In an effort to stimulate jobs, President Obama proposed high-speed rail for Florida, between Orlando and Tampa, and from Milwaukee to Madison in Wisconsin, but right-wing Gov. Rick Scott of Florida rejected his plan, and Wisconsin’s Tea Party Gov. Scott Walker likewise pushed away the Badger State blueprint.

To wealthy Republicans like Florida’s Rick Scott, transportation is no problem, for he has always had his own private jet, and can go wherever he wants without delay. Money is no object for him. The problem with Scott Walker of Wisconsin is he examined only one part of the equation, the start-up costs, while failing to consider the international risk of oil and gas embargoes, the plight of youthful or impoverished people who don’t own cars, and the many environmental costs created by gas-combustion engines.

Europe has always been a much easier and efficient continent, when compared to the U.S., in terms of transportation and travel. Trains generally run on time and connect all the major cities in the Old World. One can connect on buses at train stations, without all of the hassles or expenses related to cars. A little walk or bike ride now and then in Europe keeps them from becoming obese, like their overweight American counterparts.

So what happened? When did the conservatives in America stop caring about conservation? In the early years, it was the Republican Party in the industrial north that expanded the network of railroads. The Union Pacific, started in 1865, was connected to the West Coast in 1869. Businesses needed trains to remove lumber from the forests and resources from the mines. They hauled coal, livestock, and machinery, just to name a few items.

The advent of the electric subway and elevated trains around 1895 was a major source of efficiency for our major cities, as they provided a relatively cheap way for millions of ordinary people to travel in places like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago.

While the airplane has replaced the train for some purposes, and the mail for example can be delivered more efficiently by air, trains still have a purpose, and they should be used in the U.S. much more than they are at present. They are not obsolete.

America would be a much more efficient and better place if all of our major cities had subway systems, and if our national passenger trains were improved so they could enter the class of high-speed lines used in France, Japan, or China, for example. The first step in moving in the right direction, would be to elect people from the left, who have a vision of what the U.S. could be.

05/25/2011

Palestinian State Must Be Contiguous

To create a lasting peace for Israel, any new Palestinian state must be established as a single territorial unit, meaning the borders must be contiguous. The two parts of Palestine (Gaza and West Bank) must have land-based link, which must be clearly included in any “land swaps” that will define the ultimate borders.

The Palestinian Corridor should be from Beit Hanoun, in the Gaza Strip (northeast), to Dura, in the West Bank (southwest). It should include a high-speed rail link, with no stops in between, so Israel will have no security reason to stop or interrupt service. The corridor should include a 2-lane highway on each side of railway.

The world has previously made the mistake of physically dividing peoples and nations, in situations that have led to war.

Britain made a mistake when they created Pakistan, by locating the western part on one side of India, and the eastern half, 900 miles away, on the other side (1947). The distance between the two parts made Pakistan unmanageable, and caused East Pakistan to secede. Although an independent state of Bangladesh emerged, it was not until after Britain’s error first took the lives of millions in the Pakistan Civil War and Indo-Pakistan War (1971).

The allies made a mistake after WWI (1919), when they separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany, and transferred to Poland some German-speaking territories, near the Danzig Corridor. The lack of a sovereign connection between the two parts of Germany gave hardliners like Hitler a platform, upon which to rationalize an invasion of Poland in WWII, in which millions died.

The allies again made an error after WWII (1945), when they divided Berlin, located entirely in the Soviet Zone, into four sectors, occupied by the U.S., Britain, France, and Russia (1945). The only way the U.S., Britain or France could access their parts of Berlin, was to travel through the Russian Sector. When the Soviets cut off the highway to Berlin (1948), war was narrowly avoided, as the U.S. landed one supply plane with food every minute, for 318 days straight, to finally break the blockade.

It would be a mistake to create a new Palestinian state with Gaza and the West Bank physically separated by Israel. To prevent future roadblocks and conflict, any peace agreement must make the two parts contiguous, by creating a permanent and irrevocable easement between them, known as the Palestinian Corridor.

05/13/2011

Unemployment: Republicans No Help

The Republican-controlled Florida House and Senate voted to increase unemployment by cutting 4,492 state jobs. They also plan to spend 700 million less than last year. They did exactly the opposite of what most economists would do, and of course their rookie Tea Party Gov. Scott, approved of their misguided policies.

Florida Republicans should certainly know we are not out of the Great Recession, which started in 2008, when George Bush was President. What is unclear is whether they have any clue as to how to get out of it, or worse yet, whether they care. While no one expects all of them to have a college degree in economics, they should at least have studied the subject, before taking office.

When a local economy is stagnant, as ours is, state government can apply Keynesian economics, to stop high unemployment from becoming chronic. Florida could have created employment by spending more, not less. They could have used fiscal policy to grow the economy out of the recession, by creating jobs.

It is almost like the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. While President Obama and the federal government are doing the right thing by spending for the purpose of stimulating the economy, the Florida Republicans are doing the wrong thing by budgeting less and causing more unemployment in a recession.

Unemployment not only hurts the unemployed, it harms the entire local economy. When unemployment remains high, buying and selling declines. One ripple effect is a decrease in state sales taxes. If the Republicans had increased spending, through fiscal policy, jobs would have increased. This in turn would have stimulated buying and selling, and would have increased sales tax revenues.

While the Republicans gave away 60 million in tax cuts to businesses, and forfeited another 37 million, by raising corporate income tax exemptions, from $5,000 to $25,000, there is no guarantee any of this will increase investment, or generate jobs. If wealthy taxpayers remain timid on new investments, and instead save money, there will be no resulting increase in employment.

There would have been no better public works investment project, to cure the ill effects of the recession, than the high-speed rail plan our governor foolishly rejected. Florida could have used federal dollars to construct a railroad, and could have stimulated all kinds of jobs. It’s sad, but Scott just doesn’t understand economics.

Public works projects are a much more direct and certain way of stimulating employment. During the Great Depression that started in 1929, the government provided public sector employment that stimulated the economy. Unemployment dropped from 23.6% (1932), to 16.9% (1936), and down to 14.6% (1940), before WWII itself finally brought about a full employment economy.

Next year, when the Republican Party is in Tampa for their National Convention, I am sure they will complain about Obama. When they say the President did not create enough jobs, I hope the St. Petersburg Times will remember to ask why they voted to directly eliminate state jobs, spent millions less during the Great Recession, and thwarted Obama’s efforts to turn things around.