Friday, November 19, 2010

Our Economic Salvation vs. Mindless GOP Posturing

Driving in Ohio

With all due respect to my friends in Ohio, your drivers are terrifying. If there's someone on the interstate leapfrogging from lane to line, nearly sidswiping sedans full of passengers as they fly by at 90 mph, chances are they usually have Ohio plates.

City traffic is just as terrifying; I remember both times I was in Columbus driving two different cars, I was scared of erring at least a little bit, lest the driver behind me, who was literally an inch away from my back bumper, run right into the back of my parent's or friend's car. Driving in Ohio isn't for the faint-hearted, and I'm sure my Northern Kentucky and Ohio facebook friends can probably back me up on that.

Now, my parents are both from Northern Kentucky and Ohio; my mom is from Erlanger, and my dad is from Cleveland. My brother graduated from Oberlin. I remember many hours spent in the backseat of a car as a kid, riding from Kentucky across the singing bridge to Cincinnati, and sometimes all the way into Cleveland. Or we'd go Northward, almost to Michigan, and drive through Columbus on the way to Oberlin. Sometimes me and my best friend from college would go visit her mom in Portsmouth, just across the river from Ashland. Drivers in Southeastern Ohio are just as erratic as in the other parts.

One trip I always enjoyed making was the trip to see my aunt and uncle in Alexandria, VA, just outside of DC. I didn't like the 12-hour drive so much, but I always loved riding the Metro trains around DC. They're so damn convenient. A little $10 card will get you all over the city with ease, back home again, and you'll still have a few bucks left on it at the end of the day.

As much as I loved humming along to the sound of the rubber tires on the blue singing bridge like Dustin Hoffman did in Rain Man, and as pretty and charming as Amish country may be, I always thought Ohio was far too small of a state to spend so long in a car going from place to place. As I grew older, I thought surely, there must be cheaper ways to travel other than filling up every few hundred miles, driving on taxpayer-funded interstates always cracked and in need of repair, always depending on petroleum, which isn't gonna be here forever.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a high-speed light rail system connecting Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus? No more 6-hour car trips and frequent fill-ups from city to city. No more needless fretting in city traffic. No more unnecessary wear and tear on public roads and needless cost to Ohio taxpayers. No more harmful emissions from thousands of cars on the highway. And thousands of jobs to boot, certainly. Ohio could use it, as could lots of other states. It'd be like riding the Metro, except it would be all across the state of Ohio, and a hell of a lot faster.

I'm sure the trucking and big oil lobbies wouldn't like it, but hey.

Land of Prosperity

Sadly, the emboldened words above titling this segment are not in reference to the United States of America this time. Well, unless you're one of the richest 10% that owns 70% of the nation's wealth. Or one of the richest 1% that owns 34% of the country's private net worth. Their prosperity is just fine, and most likely will be for a very long time. I was actually talking about our top creditor: China.

China is in pretty good shape right now. Partly because we owe them $2 trillion for the ten years of tax cuts we gave to Paris Hilton, and other members of that elite club comprising the top 2% of the USA's wealthiest. But China is moving on up, and fast. Literally and figuratively. From the article:

Many of the trains plying the new railway between Shanghai's western suburb of Hongqiao and Hangzhou will travel the 126 miles in 45 minutes - about half the time trains usually take to make the trip at their fastest speeds.

The China-made CRH380 train has been clocked at almost 262 mph - a world speed record - though it will usually operate at a maximum speed of 220 mph.

The line was opened as China prepares to have 10,000 miles of high-speed rail in operation by 2012.

Instead of spending billions every year to just maintain asphalt roads that suffer from the regular wear and tear, China decided to get smart and move forward with their high speed rail system. And in two years, they'll have 10,000 miles of track used for both freight and passenger trains. The Swiss government's investment in rail systems for freight is also about to hit pay dirt in the next few years. From the article:

Completion of the Gotthard Base Tunnel will cut the travel time between Zurich and Milan in Italy by 60 minutes to two-and-a-half hours and provide an easier and more economic route for heavy freight trains.

The tunnel -- which is in fact composed of two single-track tunnels -- cost $10.6 billion (£6.6 billion).

Since the first preparations for the tunnel were laid in 1996, over 2,500 workers have taken part in its building according to AlpTransit Gotthard, the company constructing the tunnel. It is due to be operational by the end of 2017.

Freight traffic in the entire Alpine region will grow by as much as 75 percent by 2010, according to a study by the EU Commission.

The Swiss have already created jobs for 2,500 people through tunnel construction, and will likely keep a fair portion of them on staff for maintenance and repair of the track and Gotthard tunnel itself. It's assumed that the rail system currently being built by China will create thousands of jobs for Chinese workers in the manufacturing, transportation, installation and maintenance of the HST cars, tracks and tunnels.

High-speed rail is clearly the future of transportation, and is already showing dividends for the nations that chose to make the initial investment. Rail systems are revolutionizing transportation of people and goods and creating thousands of jobs in the process. It's clear that China and the EU are already leaving us behind economically. Surely the Republicans that recently got elected to state and national leadership positions are taking notice of this growing global trend and acting accordingly, yes?

Republicans- Champions of the Outdated and Irrelevant

GOPosaurs wasted no time in killing jobs as soon as they took power. Remember that awesome light rail idea in Ohio I mentioned in the first part of this piece? I sadly can't take credit for that- I give props to the Obama administration for allocating funds specifically for a light rail system that connected Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. However, Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich decided that making a political point was more important than jobs for Ohioans, just 12 hours after winning office.

"Passenger rail is not in Ohio's future,'' the Republican said at his first news conference after Tuesday's win over Gov. Ted Strickland. "That train is dead."

He was referring to the $400 million federally subsidized project to restore passenger rail between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, along the so-called 3-C corridor.

Not to be outdone, Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker has been eager to kill the $810 million-dollar rail connecting Madison and Milwaukee. Just days after being elected, Wisconsin's transportation chief announced that construction of the railway would be put on hold. This means 300 workers are being let go so a teapublican can make whatever oil company-funded, right-wing political point he was trying to make.

A good number of the teabagging Republicans who won office on November 2nd made sure to mention the "Obama/Pelosi job-killing liberal agenda" they were fighting. Yet, the first thing these Republicans did was kill jobs that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi brought to their states.

How to Beat Them

Isn't it frustrating? The solution to our myriad economic problems is staring us in the face, and our friends overseas in Switzerland, China and elsewhere are putting that solution to good use and already seeing incredible results. Yet, the only method our Republican elected officials will accept as a true "solution" is extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% at a cost of $700 billion. Can you hear them?

"Seriously, those other 8 times we cut taxes for the rich were just primer- this next tax cut for the rich means that Paris Hilton is finally going to finish the blueprints for that national light rail system! And think about all the new chauffeurs, landscapers and maids rich folks will hire with another tax cut!"

Think about the mind-numbing logic needed to be an elected Republican in 2010; keep things EXACTLY THE SAME as they have been for the last ten years, and our economy will bounce right back! Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

My message to Republicans: You want to create jobs? How about letting us be the job creators and using that $700 billion to...directly create jobs! What a novel concept! We could invest that $700 billion in a national light rail system that would connect every major city. And even if it was only a railway for freight, imagine all the free road space drivers would have without tens of thousands of trucks on the interstate. Or how much cleaner the air would be, or how much less we would spend on road repair and maintenance. It would be $700 billion well-spent, and the lower and middle class would benefit the most. Combine that with the wealthiest 2% paying the same tax rates they paid under Clinton (when the economy was booming) and it would paint a better picture for America as a whole.

We have until January until the teapublicans take over the House and obstruct any hope of actual progress. That's why I'm urging you to call your Congressmen- especially your outgoing Congressmen- to extend middle-class tax cuts ONLY, let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, and instead use that $700 billion for actual job creation.

Got a few minutes to spare? Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for your congressmen and senators, and tell them what we need- jobs, not tax cuts for the rich. Save that number in your phone, call it every day; in the line for lunch, in traffic jams, whenever you can.

A good way to get the word into the public discourse is simply by writing a letter to the editor- keep your letter under 200 words, be clear and concise, and write from the heart. When your community gets the message in their local paper again and again from fellow community members, eventually the message will stick. Change happens from the ground up.

The problems are vast. The solutions are simple and within grasp. Let's get the word out and make sure everyone hears us.

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