In The News
Meet the wimps blocking the railroad tracks
Note: A full report on the Talgo plant and related Milwaukee jobs initiative appears in the March Labor Press.
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Politicians who harken back to the good old days must mean when dinosaurs ruled the earth. How else can you interpret the anti-American doubt and cowardice that stalk Wisconsin's once honorable conservative tradition?
The pale imitations of those optimistic pioneers are Mark Neumann and Scott Walker, GOP candidates for governor, Tweedledum and Tweedledeafer, whose campaign motto seems to be "If it's broke, don't fix it."
Both can't completely oppose high-speed trains between Milwaukee and Madison. (How could they not give lip service to a central GOP platform of former governor and now Washington insider Tommy Thompson?)
But they are definitely against it . . . especially if it's paid for.
An $810 million guarantee to build Wisconsin's rail future is more than they can stomach -- unless there's a new guarantee the taxpayer won't pay a cent more in operating costs.
Just be grateful our country wasn’t built on such thinking. American enterprise has always involved thoughtful people looking for better ways, taking a calculated chance, believing that smarts and good work can do wonders.
Today that spirit tends to be buried in talk radio blather, in fear of the future and suspicion of the present -- viewpoints that demean centuries when public works combined with private enterprise to build the success of representative democracy. Imbeciles label such cooperation “socialism” -- even though it spurred American enterprise before socialism even existed as a movement.
Unlike these two lemmings, most thoughtful business leaders -- despite an ingrained DNA that usually spells GOP -- astutely back mass transit initiatives. They may wish their traditional party held the reins once more, but they do understand free enterprise has always combined public and private initiative to generate wealth in transit policy. Such capitalism has a risk, and ever will, because partnerships between government and business rely on that multiplier effect where faster travel creates more retail, more housing, more quality services and obviously more employment.
Only the Tweedle twins and a few radio talk show hosts demand fixed dice. In fact, most economic analysts note that economic growth far outweighs the triggering investment in infrastructure, since connection is the first step in growth.
Community leaders - hardly all Democrats -- don’t expect to restore in a few months the eight million jobs the US has lost in the last decade. We're already gaining back a million jobs a year and more in new developments, efficient energy, restored infrastructure and manufacturing. Yet the Tweedles believe Americans will never grow up, grow more efficient or shift up in gear, just as politicians once said America would never give up horses for those newfangled gasoline contraptions.
The buggy boys prefer sticking with failures, limited vision, bad management and misguided strategies that creamed us all.
Where would America be if both the left and the right hadn't joined in cooperation, if the current naysayers had been in charge, even back into the 19th century? Western land would lie barren because the government didn't push the path for families and private companies -- and no cost analysis could never justify or envision the homes, cities, agriculture and jobs created out of daunting mountains, plains, deserts and the unflagging determination of immigrants.
You would never finance a transcontinental railroad. Eisenhower could never have justified an interstate highway system. We should have sat out World War II because the odds, cost analysis and a better military machine were against us.
The deformed Tweedlekins are part of the Republican game opposing any federal investment by President Obama. (Walker in particular has been a backwards somersault trickster in rejecting such stimulus while using it to bail out his Milwaukee County budget. He recently twisted into a political pretzel trying to savage Milwaukee jobs from a Spanish train company as a kick in the pants to a Wisconsin company that couldn’t even have handled the assignment in the first place.}
But in this case their oppositions defy history and then fall into the ridiculous. Sure, no one can prove the public won't pay some operating costs, but when haven't they? And when did they have such an enormous cushion? Ike sure didn't.
Trains between Milwaukee and Madison, the Tweedle ilk suggests, would only be perks for well-heeled public servants to travel back and forth. Yet economists and corporations are salivating to connect the state's largest centers of biotech, finance, education, modernized manufacturing and skill needs. A lot of people needing jobs are salivating, too, and let's not even point out the need for faster job links from Milwaukee to Chicago and points in between. (If this is such a bad idea, why is Walker upset that one of his biggest financial backers didn’t land the work?)
The trains will never supplant America's love of automobiles and highways, they say - but they must live on another planet or in another country where fumes don't choke out the sun. Rather than being fearful of competition, automakers have co-existed with mass transit East and West. You can work in many cities without driving a car to work or paying for more highway sprawl.
If getting to a job in Racine or Oconomowoc by train saves time and money, most families would be happy to keep the cars to take the kids to soccer or the mall. Price, speed, comfort, energy efficiency and opportunity form the basis of genuine competition. That’s where elected officials should focus, on efficient energy and sensible tax policies.
But we've entered a disturbing time in American politics when proclaiming a lack of backbone, a lack of belief in the American workers, is perceived as the way to win votes.
In Neumann and Walker, the brain is clearly not the only part of the anatomy that has shriveled and shrunk.