Why Do Conservatives Hate High-Speed Rail? 5 Reasons Right-Wingers Are Sabotaging Public Transportation Projects
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.
It's no secret that the GOP's number one goal is to shoot down anything that Obama wants, even at the expense of their own constituents. It's also no secret that they hate government spending ideologically, and hate it even more when it actually accomplishes something positive--and visible.
Maybe Rachel Maddow is the only person who actually thinks infrastructure is a sexy political term. Yet high-speed rail is the kind of infrastructure project that is sexy. It's new technology, which requires research and development, and the trains themselves are sleek and futuristic.
And when the trains are built, they're there for everyone to see and use. Like the Interstate Highway System, built by Dwight Eisenhower, they'll be a lasting accomplishment, a testament to what the federal government can do when it decides to spend money instead of obsess over cuts.
High-speed rail investment was a signature project for President Obama, and if it happens and people like it, he'll get the credit. No wonder conservative governors are thrilled to have the opportunity to take his money and shove it back in his face.
2. Union jobs
You don't have to take our word for it—instead, take the word of Investors Business Daily:
“So who could possibly benefit from such a boondoggle? Unions, along with the politicians they vote for — in this case Obama and California Democrats, who'll be able to trade construction jobs and other union sop for votes.”
Construction jobs and other union sop are just what the country so desperately needs at the moment—employment for millions of people out of work. Union construction jobs would pay good wages and provide benefits as well. And union transit workers would be new, permanently employed workers in areas of the country, like Ohio, that have been hurting for work for years before the current recession.
So why are governors, who were elected to put their constituents back to work, so opposed to money going into projects that would create that very work? It would strengthen the unions, who support other policies that conservatives hate—Social Security and Medicare, universal health care, job protections, and other progressive policies. It's ideological opposition to unions as much as it is the continued war on the working class.
And speaking of the working class...
3. Collectivism! Socialism!
George Will thinks that trains are pernicious behavior modification: