The Transport Index 2009

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In response to the President’s State of the Union Address in February, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) criticized the stimulus, arguing that it was “larded with wasteful spending.” He pointed to the $8 billion devoted to high-speed rail as a specifically unnecessary expenditure. It became clear at that moment that the road to an improved American transportation system would not be a straight shot. How will the members of the Senate react when they are forced to consider expanding the federal commitment to transportation? That’s what this Transport Index is intended to anticipate.

The health reform debate of the last several weeks has made evident the fact that Republicans in Congress will be able to rile up an intimidating opposition to legislation proposed by the Democratic Party. Though Democrats have 60 seats in the Senate — a number that is large enough to vote down a potentially fatal filibuster — the sudden arrival of thousands of right-wing demonstrators on scene at town hall meetings has slowed down and problematized the passage of any legislation. The tacit support of Republican Congressmen for the lies being spewed by these protesters indicates that if the GOP wants to prevent something from passing, it will do whatever is necessary. “Moderate” Democrats, especially in the Senate, have made clear that they’re willing to compromise their goals in the face of this reactionary force.

Would Republicans stage a similar temper tantrum if the Congress embarked on a massive transportation program?