This caught my eye on one fine New England Monday morning (snark, for those of you not enjoying our rain/wind/grim a.m.). (h/t Midwest Energy News).
Money quote on the rash of GOP cancellations/dissings of transportation projects:
The $810 million from Wisconsin, $400 million from Ohio, and $3 billion from New Jersey will come back to Washington and be awarded to other states instead. California was one state where the anti-train candidate, Republican Meg Whitman, didn’t win. Some of the money could end up there, to help launch the Golden State’s Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail dream.
John Mica, a Republican from Florida who will run the House transportation committee starting in January, thinks that the Northeast corridor is the best target for high-speed rail money. Newly elected (or re-elected) Democratic governors in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland would presumably be happy to take the money.
I guess I should say thanks, Wisconsin et al.
I was stuck on the “high speed” Acela yesterday between New Haven and Boston which as scheduled is already ludicrously slow — 2 hours to cover about 120 miles, to which track and traffic f/ups added more than half an hour. I would love to see our Northeast Corridor routes achieve intercity timings routinely achieved in Japan in the late sixties.
Cuomo’s already on the case, and I sure hope that my home state hero Deval Patrick joins him.
Except…well two things. First, this note from the Economist article at the link above:
It will be interesting to see whether the Obama administration can convince the lame-duck Democratic congress to reassign the money—or whether the GOP-run House will try to cancel the spending entirely next year.
Well, yeah. Stupid, ignorant, short-sighted bad governance has gone national, again, and there’s no telling just how much badness we’ll endure before we get our next chance to beat back the tide in two years. From here, we get to the other point that emerges from my attempt at a little schadenfreude above.
Which would be that while the proximate losers in this instance are the folks who in some sense deserve to pay a price for electing folks who do exactly what they say they will do, their losses are likely much larger than just the foregone federal cash. Worse, this kind of stupid costs the rest of us too, especially if the money is not swiftly reprogrammed.
The first half of that claim is already becoming clear to the Wisconsin electorate. A $28.5 contract to build bridges for the project has already been cancelled, and, as the Wisconsin Builder website pointed out, “high speed rail is no longer just talk at the capitol; it’s turning into real jobs paid for with real money.”
Just to make the folly worse: as of the most recent statistics I could dig up in haste, WI gets eighty six cents back on every dollar of federal taxes paid. That’s quite a loss, year over year. Why not hand back yet more Fed spending?
Hell, the good folks of Wisconsin must be so rolling in it that they don’t mind imposing on themselves what acts as a kind of tax hike. Shoot, the good folks of Massachusetts need it more, right?
Again, I say thanks, sort of. May the voters of WI voters enjoy that warm glow of giving.
Except for this, as reported in the WSJ:
if Wisconsin backs out, the decision will endanger a larger planned rail network that would connect Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. The line between Madison and Milwaukee was intended to be an extension of the popular Chicago-to-Milwaukee “Hiawatha” route.
It’s OK, I guess, if one crowd wants to be poorer, with fewer tools — which, after all, is what infrastructure is — with which to generate wealth.
But these decisions don’t just make the good citizens of a state noted for its rotted bovine lactation products less likely to prosper. They screw millions more, and ultimately, to the extent that the US really does function as a national economy, perhaps all of us.
*I’m urging a meme here. I think that we in the reality based community have to start making some serious communication/framing efforts right now. We’ve plenty of recent evidence that the GOP is a disaster as a party of governance — but that was one idea that had a lot of trouble breaking through over these last several months. So I think, as we begin the 2012 campaigns (right now) we should be hammering home the notion that these folks screw up all the time. We should frame every piece on every blog and at every media outlet we have access to as the GOP are the spoiled, clueless children of politics, great at raising a ruckus, but no one you would want near the actual levers of power. Again and again and again, with every failure, large and small.
As you all have figured out by now, I don’t do pithy well, and that’s what’s needed here. But the basic idea is pretty clear. Lots of labels that in one form or another mark stories in memor as “another GOP f**k up.”
Update: Sorry for all the missing line breaks between grafs. I’ve been trying a bunch of stuff — drafting in word processors, using the html view on the blog tool and so on, but can’t get the final post to reflect the formatting of any of these approaches. FYWP — and if any of you know what I’m doing wrong, please inform.
Images: Stephenson’s Rocket, in Mechanics magazine, 1829.
Ynknown artist , Nemunas crossing in Kaunas, c. 1864