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HSR Plan A and Plan B Thinking

September 26th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Another guest post from the extremely thoughtful and insightful BruceMcF. Bruce’s thoughts, writ large, about transport policy and, more specifically, electrified rail merit attention and action.

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

This last week, I have been staring at The Transport Politic post, Republican Wave Could Spell Trouble for High-Speed Rail Projects from Coast to Coast.

Living in Ohio, that is doubly true: first, adding the impact of the recession on top of the impact of sixteen years of Kasich/Portman style policies is, ironically, the best opportunity for those who helped cause the mess to gain political power from it.

So, is there a Plan B?

National Plan A

Convince enough people to form a governing majority that investing in transport infrastructure to cope with the largest immediate risk that the economy faces in terms of oil price shocks, the largest medium term risk that the economy faces in terms of the threat of Peak Oil and the largest long term risk that the economy faces in terms of climate chaos.

Of course, the vested interest of the oil industry is to maximize all of those risks, so that rather than the country gaining independence from oil in advance of crisis, the country gains independence from oil as a result of a collapse in supply or an explosion in price … either of which would have calamitous effects on employment and inflation both, but would be great for the profits of oil companies.

And they have been investing in their treasonous betrayal of our nation’s economy in pursuit of individual corporate profit for decades now, and have the fruits of that investment to deploy now, when they need it most.

That is part, after all, of why we need a plan B in the first place.
National Plan B

But we need to have a Plan B anyway. We always need to have a Plan B.

Going ahead with a Plan A and no Plan B means that when we face a defeat, we are left flailing around and running around like chickens with our heads cut off … “On Noes! zOMG! I can’t believe this happened!”

Any progressive has to be able to believe that the fight can indeed be lost. After all, as Machiavelli said:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.

Is there any clearer description of the actions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress in these last two years than Republicans attacking ferociously, like partisans, and Democrats defending lukewarmly?

Progressives are perennial underdogs because there are always entrenched vested interests whose interests are threatened by progress. The fact that it is oil companies who are enemies of humanity at this point in time is not a particular vice of oil companies, but rather a general fact of human society that any given establishment is built on the flows of benefit that go to a certain set of winners.

Evidently, in a two-party system, there will be powerful entrenched vested interests in opposition to progress in both parties, and so progressives, after determining that one party is implacably allied with the most determined enemies of humanity and traitors to US interests, face the depressing fact that the other party is chock full of interests barely better.

… oh, wait a minute, what that means is … we have already passed the opportunity for Plan A, are on Plan B, and need a Plan C.
The Real Plan A

The Real Plan A is to build a progressive change coalition that is able to swing sufficient clout to push through the main points of its change agenda. That is how we have accomplished substantial positive change in our country when we have, in fact, managed to do so, from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War through the Progressives through the New Deal, that’s how its worked whenever its worked.

October of an election year is not the time to be taking actions focused on Plan A. Plan A is something we can start in December of an Election Year, building toward the primary season in the sole party not implacably wed to the destruction of the US economy and the global human life support system, trying to do what the Tea Party did in the Republican Party, but as a force for good rather than as unwitting tools of the enemies of humanity.

Plan B would be to take stock of whatever our wins or losses are in terms of Plan A, and then work to keep our coalition members and potential working partners in positions from which they can effect change. Now we are in Plan B territory, and because of the nature of our Plan A activity from December 2008 to this summer, its an uphill struggle indeed.

Plan B is to try to block the Republicans from as many statehouses we can, hold as many progressive Senate committee chairmen as we can, which means holding Senate majority for the god damned spineless Democrats, keeping Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, and fighting individually to keep ensure that as many of the Democratic survivors as possible are from the progressive caucuses.
Plan C … is Plan A

And then, if we lose, the Republicans take the Majority in the Senate, the theocrats and plutocrats divide the Senate chairmanships between themselves, Boehner of Orange comes back from hiking the Paper Trail (UTube) to find himself the Speaker … what is Plan C?

Plan C is Plan A. Indeed, its Plan A win or lose, since the follow-up to Plan B is also Plan A.

The only way to fight an avalanche of corporate money is ongoing, year round, popular involvement by people acting as if they are the citizens, rather than the corporations.

For High Speed Rail and for Living Energy Independence in general, this is not a fight of the moment over an issue of the moment, this is one necessary, though far from sufficient, part of the survival of the US economy as a national economy. You don’t stop fighting for the survival of the US economy as a national economy because of a set-back in one election.
Plan C in Ohio

For Ohio, we have been awarded $400m to build the starter line of the Triple C 110mph HSR corridor. Its the track and Express Stations for the 110mph corridor, with the signaling and crossings (and additional stations) to be added on an ongoing basis to raise the maximum speed from 79mph to 110mph.

And part of getting the approval of the operating funds through the Republican Ohio Senate was agreeing to a 5-2 vote in the governing board for the capital spending to go ahead. The Governor appoints one member, and the majority in each chamber appoints two, and the minority in each chamber appoints one, for seven total.

Even is Strickland wins in November, I’d be surprised if the narrow Democratic majority was not flipped back Republican, making four Republican and three Democratic members. If Strickland loses, it would be five Republican and two Democratic members. And both Kasich and Portman are running against taking $400m of Federal money because, after all, that is what brings in the money from the big money interests.

So, if we hand the $400m back (Kasich has tried to “lie without telling the lie” to people by saying that the money “should” be spent on roads instead, when we already got and are spending our road money, and this is dedicated HSR money), New York (say, Syracuse/Rochester/Buffalo/Toronto) or California or Florida or someone else will be getting to build an Emerging or Express HSR rail line with a no-match $400m and we in Ohio will be stuck back in limbo, with an economically sound line and no willingness to take our neck off the Peak Oil chopping block.

Well, I’ve already let the cat out of the bad on a big part of Plan C for that: a Steel Interstate program to build the nationwide capacity for 60mph and 100mph Electrified Rapid Freight Transport. Under the public/private partnership approach that I have already sketched, a 3 cent a gallon tariff on imported crude oil could get the system started, with user and access fees first refunding the original capital cost and then funding the expansion of the system.

At the local level, we need to advocate for the Ohio Hub, and turn it into a more broadly based movement demanding to take the neck of the Ohio Economy off of the Oil Price Shock chopping block where the Republican Party insists that we must remain. We need to see to it that any Kasich administration is a one-term loser. And we need to continue to work on dedicated transport corridors for common carrier transport, from rail through light rail through trolley buses to express busways for local buses.

And, after all, if Strickland pulls off an upset, and is able to push the Ohio Hub through a 3:4 governing board … we still need to do all of those things. Whether we are looking for the follow-up to Plan B, or the Plan C to turn to when Plan B does not succeed … we go back to Plan A. Its the same fight, whether we are first and ten on the opposition twenty, or first and twenty on our own ten.

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Tags: Energy · guest post · rail · transportation

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Nathanael // Sep 27, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    State legislatures are actually the key this round; we want to minimize the gerrymandering power of the Republicans who will undoubtedly get kicked out soon anyway — if they don’t gerrymander themselves into place.