Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is High-Speed Rail invited to the Tea Party? I don't think so.

The Tea Party is an American populist[1][2][3] political movement, which is generally recognized as conservative and libertarian,[4][5] and has sponsored protests and supported political candidates since 2009.[6][7][8] It endorses reduced government spending,[9][10] opposition to taxation in varying degrees,[10] reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit,[9] and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.[11]

The following by Osha Gray Davidson, a blogger for Forbes Magazine (part of the Rupert Murdoch empire), raises the interesting question of Tea Party antagonism toward high-speed rail.  We haven't heard much about it in those particular terms, but it's not to be dismissed so lightly. 

There are not only a number of new Governors that have swept into office with massive Tea Party support, but that holds true for an even larger number of Congressmen (and women) and Senators.

So what? Well, let's presume that these Congressmen want to be re-elected in 2012.  They ran successfully on a platform of deficit reduction and cutting waste out of what they consider an oversized Government.  Tea Partiers actively supported their election.  The loosely configured Tea Partiers are the voting base of the Republican Party. The Congressmen are determined not to let their constituencies down -- in order to be re-elected -- and so, standing firm on elimination of the high-speed rail program is high on their priority to-do list.

A Google search for Tea Party and High-Speed Rail brings up the Florida situation, but also lists articles about the Tea Party pressure on the House Republican majority and deficit reduction/budget slashing, including high-speed rail.  

Osha Gray Davidson

Will Tea Party Republicans Derail High-Speed Trains in the U.S.?
Mar. 2 2011 - 10:57 am 

Does high-speed rail — including “bullet-trains” such as France’s 173-mph TGV and Japan’s mag-lev version which has carried more than seven billion passengers [?] — have a future in the United States? 

Not, apparently, if Tea-Party Republicans have their way. Two weeks ago, Florida Governor Rick Scott gave a “thumbs-down” to an Obama Administration plan to build a high-speed rail (HSR) system in the Sunshine State, citing cost as the primary factor.

“The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” said Scott, a Republican who won in November with Tea Party support.

Scott’s decision means Florida will lose a $2.7 billion federal subsidy for the project.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded to Scott’s statement, saying that, “We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses.”

But Scott isn’t alone. Two other Tea Party Republican governors have also rejected an infusion of federal dollars for HSR projects: Wisconsin’s embattled Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich.

Supporters of HSR (mostly Democrats) contend that projects like these are necessary to stimulate the economy in the short term, and provide long-term benefits by reducing the enormous federal cost of continually expanding our auto-based infrastructure. Tea Party Republicans, on the other hand, focus on lowering federal spending immediately and dismiss large government projects of any kind as economically irresponsible.

Speaking politically, economically, and literally — it sounds like the perfect recipe for a train wreck.