New Republican Strategy: Shoot Selves in Foot

Planned High Speed Rail Station in Wisconsin

It’s no secret that the Republicans hated the economic stimulus. They voiced opposition in all sorts of ways (mostly hysterical) to all sorts of projects (mostly beneficial) that would have brought money and employment to their states. They especially voiced opposition to high speed rail, while in February 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Democratically-controlled Congress allocated $8 billion to be granted to states for intercity rail projects, with “priority to projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service.”.

Plan for High Speed Rail in U.S.

This isn’t a bad plan. I’ve driven from New York to Minneapolis before and it’s a long drive (some 20 hours from the vicinity of Binghamton Upstate). But ideologically, the Republicans couldn’t buy into it. Now they will reap what they sowed. Money that could have stimulated local economies will go elsewhere – where it’s wanted.

  • In Wisconsin, incoming Republican Governor Scott Walker vowed on Wednesday to fulfill a pledge he made during his campaign to kill a high-speed rail project that would have linked Milwaukee and Madison, which itself was to be part of a larger project which would have created a high-speed rail corridor across the upper Midwest, spanning the scenic but rather long (about 6 hour) drive between Minneapolis and Chicago (see map above). The clincher: the project was going to cost Wisconsin NOTHING. The entire $810 million price tag was being covered by federal stimulus funds. Wisconsin could only profit from the plan, putting thousands to work, not to mention helping the environment. But Walker is a Republican. He doesn’t care about the environment. He doesn’t care about putting Wisconsinites back to work. He says he wants to spend the money on roads instead, but there’s a catch: he can’t, because alternate use of the funds is prohibited. Ironically, the line was a proposal from the former Republican governor, Tommy Thompson, who for his temerity is now former-Wisconsin governor.
  • In Ohio, another new Republican governor, John Kasich, pledged to kill a $400 million stimulus-funded rail project. “Passenger rail is not in Ohio’s future.” Yes, because it’s so much fun to drive across Ohio. It’s marginally less exciting than Wisconsin. “That train is dead,” he announced.  He said it was the “dumbest idea” he had ever heard and that his state could not afford to operate it. He wanted to spend it on roads too. Guess what? That money goes back into federal coffers too, and Wisconsin and Ohio pay the price for electing Republicans to be governor.  If Ted Strickland, the Democrat, had been re-elected, we can imagine Ohio would have its high speed rail and an economic boost and the flowers and trees would have smiled.

These ideologically-motivated refusals are perhaps not such a bright idea when you stop to think about it. The problem being of course, that not many people stopped to do much thinking leading up to these midterms and Republicans seem to be doing less thinking than most. It all became about rage and ideology. Nobody was thinking in practical terms. So they all decided to have a group foot shoot instead.

Republicans say they are against earmarks but it is earmarks that have until now functioned as infrastructure funding. Obama tried to change that by allocating federal funds to various projects. It is difficult to imagine how Republicans plan to manage our infrastructure if they a) don’t want government spending and, b) don’t want earmarks.


Now this is just a symptom of course, but it’s one that is likely to be played out across America in areas where Republicans remain or are newly dominant.  Fortunately, the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, was wise enough not to turn down stimulus money for wind-farms. This might be why some people are talking about Daniels as possible presidential material. He may not be the best and brightest, but it isn’t difficult to look like Einstein next to the average Republican rocket scientist.

So in all likelihood, their loss will be our gain – sometimes our loss. Think about it. The New York Times reports that “Representative John Mica of Florida, the senior Republican in line to take the reins of the House Transportation Committee in January, is unhappy with the way the Obama administration awarded $10 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects.”

Mr. Mica figured these were trains to “nowhere,” a sentiment that will no doubt do much to endear him to the citizens of places like Milwaukee and Chicago, not to mention the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul).

Guess where Mr. Mica wants to spend the money? Yeah, not in your neighborhood. No, he wants to spend it in the Northeast corridor, “which he described as possibly the only place in the country with enough population density to financially support high-speed train service.”

Europe has lots of high speed rail:

High Speed Rail in Europe

The USA? Not so much:

High-speed rail in the United States currently consists of one rail line described by the US Department of Transportation as a high-speed line: Amtrak’s Acela Express service, which runs the Northeast Corridor—from Boston via New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, to Washington, D.C.—at speeds averaging 68 mph (109 km/h) for the entire distance but briefly reaching 150 mph (240 km/h) at times.

So yeah, the Northeast corridor is the only place in the U.S. with high speed rail, and now it’s going to get some more while others go without. No money and no jobs and no environmental boost for Wisconsin and Ohio, but the people in the Northeast corridor will benefit. This is the sort of short-sightedness we can expect for the next two years.

Folks will be able, in that time, to reflect on what this all means for them. One hopes that in those states which elected Republicans as governor the voters will come to the conclusion by 2012 that perhaps the Party of Raging No’s might not be the best choice. They will have to live with their mistake for awhile though since governors in all states save Vermont and New Hampshire serve four year terms. Meanwhile, the governors can enjoy their annual state of the state addresses explaining to those voters why they screwed them over.

My guess is that by 2012, not many voters will be reminiscing along the lines of “Yeah…good times…”

12 Replies to “New Republican Strategy: Shoot Selves in Foot”

  1. My daughter and I took Amtrak from Atlanta, GA to Washington, DC to attend the Colbert-Stewart rally, and it took us 22 hours with delays, so, I’d say, yes, we need an expansion of high speed rail to all parts of the country. GA didn’t want to pay its part to compete for high speed rail funds that were a part of the stimulus simply because the money was connected to President Obama and the democrats. Now, the state is scrambling for funds to build a high speed rail system here. The conservatives here seem to let ideology and spite cause our state to remain at the bottom of the barrel on every issue. The ones in North GA b!tch about how difficult it is to get from home to work and back because of the amount of traffic on the highways, don’t want to pay taxes to expand the highway system, and don’t want to invest in high speed rail which would help solve some of the problems with traveling by car, so the solution is to maintain the current inadequate system and continue to moan and groan about its shortcomings while doing nothing.

  2. And expanding the highway system just means more cars and more pollution, whereas at least high speed rail is environmentally sound. And of course maintaining that system means further need for earmarks in order to sustain our infrastructure, and the GOP says they’re against earmarks too…so they seem to enjoy running in place, or doing nothing as you say. I cannot imagine how they ever intend to govern this country with their brains so demonstrably nonfunctional.

  3. They have already declared that their main goal is to ensure that Obama is a one-term president. To that end, they plan to block important legislation and to conduct frivolous, time-consuming “investigations” that are a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.
    It’s a direct contradiction of their vow to cut spending, which they always say they’ll do and which their own record of “fiscal conservatism” proves to be a myth.
    Anyof these things will be their way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in 2 years.

    The hypocrisy of condemning stimulus money as bad, and then showing up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their states where the money funded projects as well as creating jobs, is staggering. Yet, too many apathetic voters, as well as those too short-sighted to see these as the investments in the nation’s economy that they are, propelled even more people like them to victory. It has been said many times that Americans like a government that is fairly evenly divided with Democrats and Republicans in power. That would only make sense if the GOP didn’t have this my-way-or-the-highway mentality and were concerned with actually helping the country as opposed to just winning power. Now, because of GOP obstructionism, there is no longer any rational reason for that kind of thinking. This penchant for instant gratification among us is what keeps too many of us from looking at national problems and solutions from the long-term perspective. The long-term perspective would enable people to see that the economic crisis in this country cannot be solved by voting for a different party in a fit of pique because we don’t always see immediate results.

  4. We certainly don’t deserve to be the victims of their stupidity. And I sat at McDonalds for lunch with FOX on the TV (as always in this town) and watched them rage against the economic situation and saying Obama is a criminal for destroying our economy and all these low-brow idiots sit around watching it and nod. Really takes my appetite away.

  5. One reason the Stimulus did not work has well as it could have, was repug governors refusing to put people to work. Shame on these criminals and the criminals they work for.

  6. I think we will continue to see more “group foot-shooting” (love that term) from Republicans but it doesn’t seem like their supporters get it. We in California voted for high-speed rail and although it passed, guess who has held it up with…that’s right, regulatory issues. Republicans want us here to continue driving on roads they block funding for because the oil industry is lining their pockets.

    I spent some time in the U.K. a couple of years ago, and never needed a car. Toured the U.K. and Ireland for a summer and never drove once. But America is so exceptional and apparently, mass transit is for second-rate countries. I’m not very hopeful for the U.S. and am looking forward to emigrating to a second-rate country with excellent roads and intelligent people.

    We need more articles like this. Only educating the populace will save us. Thanks for bringing attention to this mess and thanks for the “group foot-shoot” term. It made my crappy day better!

  7. One of the saddest ironies is that by almost any measure of well-being and progress, the poorest states are those that consistently vote for Republicans. It could not be more obvious that the Party of No values ideology above actual people and the effect of their ideology on them.

  8. You know, I grew up in Minneapolis and I learned while living there that back in the day, we had had mass transit. But guess what? The car and oil companies got together and killed it so they could make cars and fill them with gas. Decades later, here was Minnesota trying to build a mass transit system. It’s no surprise those folks are still sabotaging efforts moving us into the 21st century. I really does seem at times as though they want to stagnate growth and development. I mean, corporations will still make money, at least until the rest of he world leaves us so far in the dust that we become a historical footnote. But of course, these people are shortsighted; they care nothing for the future.

    I’m glad you liked the term! It was an amusing image.

  9. All is not lost yet in Ohio. Kasich has not taken office yet and has already asked Strickland to return the money to the Feds. Strickland responded with a big FU and told him he has to return the money and kill 16k jobs on his (Kasich’s) watch, not Stricklands.

  10. Good for Strickland!

    I’m sure that next generation is going to thank them for crumbling roads and no mass transit. It reminds me of the moronic commercials where people agree to be paid in gum. We spend all the governemnt’s money on gum and war. Domestically, we get nothing.

    Money not spent on infrastructure (read jobs) now is money that will have to spent later. We’ve been living off the WPA’s and CCC’s work for far too long. Do they think these things just appear, like shopping malls?

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