Political Animal


September 06, 2011 10:45 AM Radical, socialist infrastructure reaches Texas

By Steve Benen

If Republican rhetoric is to be believed, this is exactly the sort of public investment the GOP opposes and finds offensive. (via Jed Lewison)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has joined with Texas officials and railroad industry leaders to announce nearly $50 million in rail investments to bolster both passenger and freight service through the state, and jumpstart planning for high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

A $34 million TIGER II grant will fund major rail improvements on the Tower 55 project in Fort Worth, TX, and reduce traffic delays by 100,000 hours per year. […]

In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation also announced a $15 million high speed rail grant for Texas that will jumpstart engineering and environmental work on a high speed rail corridor linking two of the largest metro areas in the U.S., Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston.

We are, of course, supposed to believe this is an awful development. Public spending, infrastructure investment, using government to create jobs — the right believes these kinds of efforts aren’t just wrong, but also constitute some kind of nefarious socialist plot.

Notice, however, that GOP officials seem entirely pleased with the rail developments in Texas. Rick Perry’s administration appears to welcome the funding, and both Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn praised the infrastructure projects. Cornyn said, “These improvements will help ensure our state remains the economic leader it is while improving the safety and commute times of those within Fort Worth.”

A congresswoman in the area, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) praised the partnership between federal, state, and local officials, and said the rail investments “will create hundreds of jobs.” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said the projects will benefit the whole country.

Is that so.

Kevin Drum had an item last week, arguing that “hypocrisy allegations” lobbed at Republicans who accept money from federal programs they oppose “are pretty shoddy.” Once a spending measure passes and funds are available, even if a GOP official disagrees with the investments, “it would be serious malfeasance not to make sure your state gets its share of the goodies.”

That certainly makes sense. But my concern isn’t just the hypocrisy of Republicans decrying spending bills and then trying to direct that spending to their states and districts. My beef has more to do with their ideology: these same Republicans insist public investments can’t create jobs and are bad for the economy, and then also say public investments can create jobs and are good for the economy.

And that’s a problem, not of hypocrisy necessarily, but of an incoherent approach to governing.

I can fully appreciate the importance of fighting for a slice of a pie; after all, their taxpaying constituents are paying for these investments whether they like it or not. What gets me are the ideological arguments that are as wrong as they are cynical — public spending will undermine the economy, unless it’s in my area, in which case it will be good for the economy.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on September 06, 2011 10:55 AM:

    What's good for the goose, is NOT good for the gander!

    Not if you're an elected goose, who wants to keep money and credit from going to the ganders.

    Republicans are ignorant of both the micro-economics and macro-economics of stimulus.

    But they sure do love "Me-Crow" economics when they can grab some credit.

  • walt on September 06, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Kevin Drum drives me crazy at times. The problem with liberalism is that it's often so willing to split hairs for the sake of intellectual honesty that it has no emotional core left to defend its own project. Either you fight with every weapon you have, even if it means risking offending the Gods of Nuance, or you settle for half measures that leave the working class with the idea you don't really believe in anything at all.

    We're in a battle royale with hypocrites and slime. Sorry, but if that's offensive to you, then you belong in the nurses' station wrapping bandages around sprained ankles.

  • just bill on September 06, 2011 11:02 AM:

    no. f**king. money for red states and republican losers. period.

  • SYSPROG on September 06, 2011 11:05 AM:

    'And that’s a problem, not of hypocrisy necessarily, but of an incoherent approach to governing.' Oh BS Steve...in my part of the country we call that LYING...hey GOP you wanna go back to the 1950's? Values? Morals? Then stop your lying mouths. It is not 'just politics', it is LYING to the American People. The same people who think government is to BIG but 'deserve' their Social Security and Medicare, are the ones who listen to this drivel. OF COURSE, the federal government should direct major infrastructure projects and help the states but the politicians have a duty to TELL THE TRUTH. It is not about 'governing' or 'hypocrisy'...it's about LYING.

  • Michael on September 06, 2011 11:06 AM:

    So the "the Tower 55 project (that) will create approximately 900 jobs" is simultaneously a "job-killer."

    You may now commence brain-explosion.

  • DAY on September 06, 2011 11:08 AM:

    it is not the ideological arguments that bother me, it is the ideological VOTES!

  • square1 on September 06, 2011 11:11 AM:

    Democrats who are too stupid to figure out how to take advantage of this deserve to lose.

    For example, it would be trivial for the administration to create an administrative "fast track" for transportation programs where Governors, Senators, or Congresspersons have formally requested that spending be accelerated for "job-creating purposes".

    Make these clowns sign a piece of paper (and not simply a letter that they send, make them agree to your words on a form that you design) requesting the funds and acknowledging the stimulative effect and then wave it in their faces.

    Or don't. Let stimulus funds get fast-tracked to Blue States. Fuck 'em. I really don't care.

    How hard is it to come up with these ideas? Watching the Democrats play politics is like watching a moronic football coach who can't figure out that when the opposing defense keeps crowding the box to stop the run that means that you have to throw the ball.

  • Anonymous on September 06, 2011 11:15 AM:

    @square 1:

    "Democrats who are too stupid to figure out how to take advantage of this deserve to lose."

    It is easy to do:

    Talk not about "stimulus". It is a dirty word. Talk about rebuilding crappy bridges and roads, and a jobs bill.

    Go to a Republican district with crappy roads and show Americans literally the crappy roads. Show them the potholes, the rusted bridges. Tell them they need a new bridge. Tell them that if we fix them, it is create X amount of construction jobs in the district. To construct something you need materials. That means steel and cement companies will have to hire more people. The projects are going to need tractors, so Caterpillar and other companies will have to hire people. You need diesel to run those tractors and oil and gas to run the new plants. The energy industry will have to hire more people. Architecture firms will have to hire people to design the projects. The new construction workers will have to eat lunch. That means restaurants or roach coaches will have to hire more people to serve them food. The restaurant will need more food as a consequence. Grocery stores and food companies will have to hire more people. And so on. All the new people hired, will end up spending money that they did not have before on things that they needed or wanted. Other industries will have to hire more people to service these new people reentering the workforce.

    Obama needs to explain it to people in terms that they can understand. Go to Republican districts and point this out. Bush repeatedly did this (on taxes and stuff) and it was successful. Even if he is unsuccessful, politically he will benefit as voters will see him fighting for jobs.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on September 06, 2011 11:21 AM:

    They should have been like our Governor Rick Scott here in Florida who fucked us out of 24 billion in high speed rail money for ideological reasons. Flat out refused the money that had already been approved by a previous republican administration. That money could be spent better elsewhere he said...thinking it went back to the Federal Government. It was already appropriated so it went elsewhere alright ... right to the northeast corridor.

    You're welcome.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on September 06, 2011 11:22 AM:

    Good to see Texas is following the bold precedent in Florida.

    Oh wait...

    how do I type greek letters in Craptcha?

  • Rick Massimo on September 06, 2011 11:25 AM:

    Cornyn said, “These improvements will help ensure our state remains the economic leader it is while improving the safety and commute times of those within Fort Worth.”

    Oh yeah? Show me where in the Constitution it's the federal government's job to improve the commute times of those within Fort Worth.

    SHOW ME!

    You can't, can you? Huh? HUH?

  • N.Wells on September 06, 2011 11:29 AM:

    Perry prayed for rain to end the Texas drought and God sent raging wildfires. Perhaps He's sending Perry a message about being such a blazing unspeakability.

  • square1 on September 06, 2011 11:30 AM:


    Unfortunately, President Obama has spent his administration listening to clowns like former OMB director Orzag who actually said that it would have been difficult to spend additional stimulus money.

    We are governed by asshat eggheads who couldn't identify the business end of a shovel, much less a shovel-ready project. Repeated studies have shown that the U.S. needs to spend in excess of $1T just to maintain our existing infrastructure.

    Americans don't think in terms of dollars. They think in terms of projects. If you identify $1T worth of infrastructure projects they will support it. If you just talk about spending, of course they will balk.

  • internet tough guy on September 06, 2011 11:33 AM:

    I, for one, think "Fuck you I got mine" is a coherent and rational political philosophy.

  • Jon on September 06, 2011 11:33 AM:

    And that’s a problem, not of hypocrisy necessarily, but of an incoherent approach to governing.

    No, it's also hypocrisy. This is one of the few instances in which I disagree with Drum.

  • Anonymous on September 06, 2011 11:44 AM:

    Not a comment on Republican hypocrisy, but I recently traveled on the high speed train (TGV) in France. It was amazing - 288 miles in two hours (included one stop), quiet, smooth. It was like floating. When we traveled alongside highways, we passed cars (probably going 80 mph) like they were standing still. And there were trains all across the country - not just TGV but "regular" trains, and of course mass transit, buses, light rail, subways, etc. that run frequently, in all large cities. TGV has been running for 30 years... meanwhile, in the US we have... Amtrak. We really need to get with it, esp in high traffic corridors.

  • jjm on September 06, 2011 12:04 PM:

    This discussion is a bit silly.

    The GOP ideology is there simply to COVER UP the way they send YOUR tax money to their pals (see Halliburton, e.g.). They claim it's 'wrong, unpatriotic, fiscally irresponsible' for government to spend money at all.

    Why? So that YOU cannot complain when your tax dollars get YOU nothing in return.

    It's the longest running scam in the book.

  • chopin on September 06, 2011 12:27 PM:

    And my concern (like that of Ananymous) is that the Democrats are too fucking stupid to take advantage of these opportunities to bludgeon the shit out of the Republicans on these issues. I'm one of those registered Rethugs who, in a poll Steve mentioned some time ago, wish Obama would grow a pair and kick the GOP in the nuts. And BTW, ditto on the trains in Europe. Well, that and a whole lot of other sensible behaviors.

  • DZ on September 06, 2011 1:58 PM:

    The GOP should not be allowed to get away with its "well, the money was being spent anyway, so we need to get our share of it" defense.

    Either you believe government spending kills jobs or you don't. Either you believe government projects are wasteful or you don't. Time and again, we see that, when the rubber meets the road and its their constituents on the line, the Republicans don't believe their rhetoric.

    I tell my conservative friends all the time: "Nobody wants to live in the word you envision. Not even you."

  • meander on September 06, 2011 5:44 PM:

    It is not clear how this was announced -- press conference? press releases? -- but it really should have been announced through a joint press conference consisting of President Obama, Secretary LaHood and the members of Congress that represent that part of Texas. That would have gotten them onto the same stage as the President, and perhaps given more local credibility to the "infrastructure improvements = jobs = a better business environment" line that the President needs to push much harder.

  • buckyor on September 06, 2011 10:52 PM:

    Why the fuck are we spending federal money in places like Texas anyway? I can think of a lot better places for those dollars than some backwoods redneck shithole like that.