In all issue areas, the Republicans outdid themselves on far-right-wing pandering with their new platform, approved yesterday in Tampa. Transportation is no exception.
The new platform calls for the end of subsidies for Amtrak and high-speed rail, and for states to have maximum flexibility on transportation spending — unless of course they want to spend money on anything but highways, which is verboten.
But all the proof you need that this document is pure crazy-talk comes with this jawdropper, right at the beginning:
Infrastructure programs have traditionally been non-partisan; everyone recognized that we all need clean water and safe roads, rail, bridges, ports, and airports. The current Administration has changed that, replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.
The reality is that the GOP kept partisan tensions high during the protracted bill process by repeatedly coming up with bills that were so extreme that they couldn’t even rally their own party to vote for them. Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bipartisan bill, 74-22, making countless hard compromises. The administration actually had very little to say about the bill process, except that it would veto the bill if the Republicans succeeded in larding it down with hyper-ideological, partisan accessories like automatic approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
But more importantly, the president is engaging in urbanist social engineering? This is the president who rescued the auto industry and whose DOT gives rural communities preferential treatment in everything from TIGER grants to TIFIA loans to transit assistance that requires no local match. And President Obama’s infrastructure plans have always been more than generous to highway interests.
Yes, it’s true: Executive branch agencies are working to save local and state governments money by encouraging transportation and land use decisions to be made together. But that’s no prescription for high-rise living and “government transit.”
Speaking of “government transit,” the Republicans are ready to end federal involvement in passenger rail. They take a jab at favorite whipping boy Amtrak, claiming, “The public has to subsidize every ticket nearly $50” and calling for private operation of the Northeast Corridor – an idea so dangerous and so reviled they had to eat their words last fall.
The platform turns to MAP-21, the transportation bill signed into law in July, and gives the GOP credit for “key reforms” including the evisceration of the environmental review process and increased flexibility for states to do whatever they want. The GOP hails it as “a return to the principles of federalism.” They call for even more damage to the few environmental protections communities have left by further “reforming” the National Environmental Policy Act.
They acknowledge the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund with vague words about “debt and deficits” and “hard choices.” The only thing they’re sure of is that surface transportation funds shouldn’t be spent on anything but highways. No matter that such a mandate would cost states some of that beloved flexibility.
Republicans slam Obama in every infrastructure-related Congressional hearing for not including more infrastructure in the stimulus and for the focus on “shovel-ready” projects, and they didn’t miss a chance to repeat that criticism in their platform. They complain about ports becoming bottlenecks but don’t mention the new freight policy hatched in MAP-21 aimed at resolving port congestion. And they obliquely reject VMT fee systems that would involve “governmental monitoring of every car and truck in the nation.”
The GOP energy and environment platform is almost too scary to read without someone holding your hand. “Republicans advocate an all-of-the-above diversified approach taking advantage of all our American God-given resources” — as long as “all-of-the-above” doesn’t include anything but coal and oil.
So, let’s drill in the ANWR and build that Keystone thing already and burn lots of coal and build nuclear power plants. Oh, and the environment? It’s “getting cleaner and healthier” – no need to worry. Or back up your assertions with facts.