Some thoughts on Flint and DOT

The New York Times editors fingered Republicans for the crimes against the people of Flint, Michigan.

The state government, whose officials caused this crisis, has been loath to commit substantial funds to long-term needs, and Congress, under the control of Republicans, is finding excuses not to rescue this poverty-stricken, majority-black city of nearly 100,000 people.

Closer to home, Republicans in Olympia essentially “fired” Washington state’s Department of Transportation head, Lynn Peterson, by refusing to confirm her three years after she was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee. I was struck by the comments of Curtis King, R-Yakima and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee:

He also said Peterson is making it too cheap for Sound Transit to acquire right of way along state roads.

“She’s very partial to transit, very partial to bike and pedestrian paths, all those things,” King said. “We need to protect the citizens that want to travel on our roads. That’s why we’re there. We need to protect the ability of people to use our roads, use their cars. From the get-go, she was about moving people on transit, moving people on light rail.”

We may recall conservative pundit George F. Will’s denunciation of trains. He was writing for Newsweek at the time (Feb. 2011):

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Mr. Will’s attitudes are on full display along Puget Sound’s interstates, where all those “unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted” motorists embrace their individualism en masse, victims of their own shortsightedness. The vehicular goo is constant and thick.

Conservative Republicans, there is really no other kind, pose an existential threat to the planet. Mr. Will, we also know, denies climate change. It’s also clear that in their zeal to shrink governments, Republicans condemn millions of Americans to extreme environmental risk, from Flint to Florida, where global warming has already been exacting its toll for decades. Trains can help mitigate by increasing transportation efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

Charles Koch has dedicated his political life to destroying “collectivism,” which he deems pernicious. Of late he has tempered his language and softened his image. But as Jane Mayer records in her book Dark Money, Mr. Koch is unavoidably off-the rails when it comes to his born-in-the-womb libertarian views. Now he has married money with mayhem, spreading his vast tentacular network into and around even the smallest government branches. In this he has been spectacularly successful, as evidenced by the “incredible” transformation of America’s states from blue to red. His fingerprints will no doubt be discovered in Washington state, the once-proclaimed “soviet” of the United States.

Insofar as Republicans will literally be the death of us, they should at least be quarantined. Kansas seems to be a suitable location for such purpose.