I recently contacted my state legislator regarding NC House Bill 422, a bill “to prohibit the department of transportation from accepting federal funds for a high-speed rail project without explicit authorization from the General Assembly.” I am opposed to this bill. My Republican legislator disagrees.
Here’s the verbatim text of our exchange, copied from emails.
Mar 29, 2011
Representative Pat Hurley Legislative Office Building, Room 532300 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh, NC 27603
Dear Representative Hurley,
I am writing you today to ask you to please oppose H422 which would block federal funding of over $500 million for high-speed passenger railservice for North Carolina. High-speed rail investment has the potential to stimulate our economy by bringing in over 4,800 new jobs and encouraging economic development around train stations in our state. In fact, new high-speed rail infrastructure would be funded nearly 100% by the federal government and will bring North Carolina into the 21st century.
High-speed rail is critical to our communities, for our state’s mobility, for future economic investment, and for job growth across our state. Rail travel is a better and cheaper alternative to air travel to many destinations, helps reduce traffic on our highways and our dependence on foreign oil, and would create hundreds of good jobs in both the short and long term. For all of these important reasons, please oppose House Bill 422. It’s the right thing to do for all of us.
Mr. Thurman Hubbard
And her response (formatted as received)
Friday, April 15, 2011, 11:12 PM
Dear Mr. Hubbard,
Thank you for your e-mail concerning this issue. How would it help Randolph County? How could all this extra debt help Randolph County? This is taxpayer dollars that we do not have. Where do you think the money is coming from when the US Government is in debt over $3 Trillion dollars? I expect the jobs that it would create wouldnot use people from Randolph County. Why would you really want me to vote against this bill? I appreciate the opportunity to serve.
Rep. Pat Hurley
To which I replied:
You asked, “Why would you really want me to vote against this bill?” I want you to vote against this bill because I can see beyond the borders of my own county, can you?
For most of the past ten years I lived in one county, but worked in another and traveled across several others to get there and back. High speed passenger rail service, and mass transit projects in general, would facilitate better travel within the region and allow more of our county residents to consider better employment options without having to relocate out of the county. As you know, when people relocate out of Randolph county it diminishes our tax base and hurts our economy in a number of ways.
High speed rail might also open up travel options to tourists who might not currently be able to afford the expense of fuel, lodging, food, and admission to attractions such as the NC Zoo. More Zoo visitors would benefit this county. The value of every project cannot simply be judged on whether or not a piece of it falls inside the borders of one particular county. If we use that standard for everything we’d never build anything! Your myopic view of this issue is simply wrong.
You also mentioned our government debt. No one likes to be in debt, but there’s an old saying, “you can’t make money without spending money,” and it’s as true today as it ever was. The problem isn’t debt so much as it is priorities. As long as we can afford to allow big corporations and very wealthy individuals to avoid paying a fair share of the cost of maintaining the civilization that facilitated their financial success, I can’t take yours or anyone else’s arguments about deficit spending and debt seriously.
Rail travel – high speed or otherwise – is a solution we need to be investing in heavily if we are to meet the environmental, energy, and population challenges that await us in the future. So I ask you again, please oppose House Bill 422. It’s the right thing to do.
This is the first time I’ve ever had any kind of interaction with my elected representatives at any level of our government, and I appreciate Representative Hurley (or her staff member) taking the time to respond individually to constituent concerns. That’s pretty rare in my experience.
That does not however, change the fact that I strongly disagree with the thinking behind H.B. 422.
Yes, this nation and our state are in a bad financial situation, but not nearly as bad as we’ve seen in the past. The reason we’re in such dire straits is that we have politicians at state and federal levels doing the bidding of the corporate class and the super wealthy and mostly ignoring the needs of the greater part of the population.
We need jobs in a bad way and spending money on high-speed rail is one way to create jobs, though we need many more jobs than this alone will produce. Borrowing money to create jobs puts money in the hands of the people – the consuming public – and creates demand for more goods and services, all of which drives tax revenues up.
Unfortunately, since we’ve off-shored and out-sourced most manufacturing and services, much of the demand created will be creating jobs in other countries, not in North Carolina or most other states. We live in a global society now, and until we get every nation on the same set of labor and environmental rules, corporations will continue to find ways to move jobs overseas and exploit people in all nations.
We’ve been pursuing the Republican driven, trickle down, coddle the wealthy, kiss the corporate ass agenda for thirty years now and it’s obvious that it doesn’t work for anyone but the super elite at the top of the pyramid. The experiment was a failure.
We need a high-speed rail network in this country to replace the airlines. As fuel prices and security concerns continue to rise, air travel will become too expensive and inconvenient for all but intercontinental, transoceanic travel.
We need to rebuild our existing rail infrastructure and expand local and regional industrial and passenger services. Our bridges, water and sewer treatment and delivery, electrical grid, pipelines, and dams are falling apart from decades of neglect. Our schools are in desperate need of funding, not only for teachers and resources but for building upgrades as well. Not to mention the national shame that is our profit driven healthcare system.
We can fix all these problems and create millions of good jobs in the process, but it will require the super-rich, bastard class to stop living like royalty and start paying their fair share of the operating costs of the nation and the world that allows them such success. It will also require stripping the veil of personhood from corporate entities and closing the loopholes that allow them to get away with not paying their share in supporting our civilization.
Did you notice that I have yet to bring up the massive amount of deficit spending our government does in pursuit of its imperialistic military crusades in support of our corporate oligarchy? You want to cut spending? Start there, and cut deep. American business interests must learn to live in a world that we don’t and can’t always control. If you don’t like losing your investment when foreign governments change and no longer recognize your “property rights’? Stop investing your resources on foreign soil and come back home where the jobs, the profits, and the tax revenues both of them generate belong.
Yes, I do want to see us borrow more money, and spend it on infrastructure, education, health care, and jobs that benefit everyone, not endless wars that only create more enemies for our children to fight with in a few years.
The deficit is important, but people and jobs are even more important. Most of all, I want my representatives at the local, state, and federal level to start really listening to their constituents and do the work of the people. Stop taking your orders from Wall St., Bank of America, Wells-Fargo, the Koch brothers, and Art Pope.
They are few, we are many, and we have very sharp pitchforks.