Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another Reason to Vote Against Private Plane McCain

"Why don't all you people just get heiress wives and Gulfstreams like I did?"

He's been trying to kill Amtrak -- affordable train travel for the rest of us, the non-private-plane crowd -- for decades.

Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: McCain's agenda on Amtrak

TRAIN TRAVEL is finally becoming a third rail of politics. The first one to fry over it might be John McCain.

For years, McCain, in the comfort of cheap gasoline for autos and airplanes, made Amtrak a personal whipping boy.
Despite the fact that governments in Western Europe and Asia zoomed far ahead of the United States by supporting high-speed trains to relieve congestion, promote tourism and now as we are coming to know, save the planet, McCain has spent considerable capital in denying the passenger rail system the capital to modernize.

In 2000, when he was chairman of the Senate Science, Commerce and Transportation committee, McCain killed $10 billion in capital funding for Amtrak. He denounced Amtrak as a symbol of government waste, claiming, "There's only two parts of the country that can support a viable rail system - the Northeast and the far West."

He made these claims though Amtrak investment had the support of several notable Republicans. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi warned that Amtrak "is guaranteed and doomed to failure if we don't give it an opportunity to succeed. If you don't have modern equipment, if you don't have the new fast trains, if you don't have a rapid rail system, it will not work."

Tommy Thompson, the secretary of Health and Human Services during President Bush's first term, was Amtrak chairman when McCain blocked the funding. Thompson said, "The traveling public are sending a distress call to escape our nation's endless traffic jams and airport gridlock."

Although Thompson claimed "remarkable progress in turning Amtrak around," despite a past where "it was not run like a business," McCain ignored the distress call. In 2001, then-Amtrak president George Warrington said the funding of rail in America was so bad, it was comparable to similar funding in Estonia and Tunisia.

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