Plain Talk – 9.07.10

Plain Talk – 9.07.10
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to live in Weakley County, but work in Nashville?
Northwest TN unemployment is hovering in the teens. Weakly County is up to 13.4 percent. We’d need more than 1,500 jobs to come to the area just to be at a healthy level, and that’s just in Weakley County.
If the jobs aren’t coming here, can we take people to the jobs without devastating rural communities?
With the technology that exists today we could.  High speed rail could transport passengers from all over Northwest Tennessee to Nashville, Memphis or St. Louis in about 45 minutes.
Existing rail systems in Europe clock in at 220 miles per hour and earlier this month a Chinese University reported that it is developing a prototype train that could go up to 600 miles per hour.
That’s why I just shook my head in disgust when I read a highway funding editorial called “Taxing Transportation” from Dr. Tracy Miller for The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College.
Dr. Miller argues that Americans vehemently oppose a fuel tax for transportation because the revenue is not spent just on highways. The funds from federal fuel taxes are also spent on public transportation and over the years, the percentage of funds that go to non-highway projects has grown to about 20 percent.
He makes a simple argument – the Federal Highway Trust Fund was set up in the 1950’s for highways. It says it right in the name, why should it be spent on anything else?
Well, for the exact same reason our Navy no longer spends big money on sails and whale oil. Technology and progress. I’m a tax-payer, and I’m not mad that my tax dollars are being spent on public transportation. I’m mad that my tax dollars aren’t being spent on better public transportation.
When tax-payer money is being spent on the operation and upkeep of antiquated technology instead of the research, development and deployment of new technology, that’s what infuriates this taxpayer. It’s as if we decided to start delivering mail via Pony Express again.
Dr. Miller’s editorial focuses on my home-state of Pennsylvania. He makes the same arguments this month that I heard my entire life growing up in PA.
Why should rural tax-payers have to pay for public transportation? And once again, the stereotypical culture war flames between “rural” and “urban“ voters are flamed.
Resentment builds and next thing you know, there’s a vice presidential candidate claiming one part of the country is “real America” and the rest is, well, we don’t know, she never answered that one.
Animosity grows, further dividing the country and we end up paralyzed while multi-national corporations bleed us of resources, our infrastructure crumbles and other countries blaze new technological trails.
The Federal Highway system was built to move military, goods and people after WWII. The idea was about transportation, not about miles of asphalt laid.
What if the military needed to move across our own land like they did in Europe? Doesn’t it make sense to have a public transportation system that can move large numbers of civilians separate from the highways needed for military equipment? 
If we have better ways of moving materials or people, the United States should be leading the way, not playing catch up.
Eisenhower planned for our future, just in case we ever faced what Europe did in the 1940’s. Unfortunately, too many politicians,today only plan for the next election, not the next generation.
The question isn’t why should rural tax-payers fund public transportation. The question really is why doesn’t public transportation benefit rural communities? 
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WCP 9.07.10

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