Reaganism Caused Yesterday's Train Crash

There used to be a time in this country when our elected representatives believed in America and its government.

From Lincoln creating the land-grant universities to FDR creating the Tennessee Valley Authority and Eisenhower building the Interstate Highway System, our leaders shared a common vision of America that saw government and public works as a positive force in our society. But then Reagan came along and the message was no longer “believe in America and its government,” it was “government is the problem, not the solution.”

This is basically the same idea that drives societies like Somalia, where the local warlords call the shots, and it’s led directly to the decline of our once world-class railroads.

While countries like China, Japan, and Germany are surging ahead with high-speed trains that are shattering records left and right, we’re stuck here in America with outdated technology and crumbling tracks.

The Acela train, which was supposed to be America’s answer to high-speed rail, travels at an average speed of just 79 miles per hour between Boston and Washington.

In comparison, high-speed trains travelling between Madrid and Barcelona travel at an average of around 150 miles per hour.

The Japanese, meanwhile, have just developed a passenger train that can travel at a whopping 374 miles per hour.

The Acela, of course, can travel as fast as 150, but it’s severely limited by the poor track quality along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which according some estimates will need something to the tune of $4.3 billion in repairs by 2019.

Our railroads used to be the envy of the world, but now they’re a joke, a joke that in some cases, leads to tragedy.

Although last night’s deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia looks like it was the result of human error, our aging and decrepit rail system only makes such disasters more likely. In fact, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, the single biggest cause of train accidents between January 2000 and February 2015 was track failure.

The solution here is simple. We need to do what we did for hundreds of years before Reaganism infected our national discourse: seriously invest in our rail infrastructure.

Right now, we lag way behind countries like China, Switzerland, and Austria. That needs to change, and we should start by doubling our efforts to boost Amtrak and its Northeast Corridor, which is so important to our economy that if it stopped altogether, the country would lose almost $100 million every single day.

The problem, though, is that Republicans don't give a rat’s patooey about improving our rail system -- at least so long as it's not owned by some billionaire. Right now, they’re actually trying cut Amtrak funding by around 20 percent, from $1.4 billion to $1.13 billion and some have actually called for the privatization of the Northeast Corridor.

The way they see it, since Amtrak isn’t “making a profit,” it’s a waste of money.

This is a perfect example of Reaganism run amok. No transportation system “makes a profit”-- our highways certainly don’t -- because that’s not the point. The point of having a national highway system or national rail system isn’t to make money -- it’s to provide a service to the public and to provide a backbone for the economy to grow and prosper.

Infrastructure is just the soil in which business roots itself, and government spending is the best fertilizer. That’s what Republicans don’t get about Amtrak.

Sometimes, throwing money at a problem is the way to fix it. When your tracks are crumbling your, bridges are falling apart, and your trains are dinosaurs from the 1970s, no magical privatization scheme is going to solve the problem.

What’s going to get the job done is a dose of good old fashioned government spending, the kind we used to build this country from the founding of the Republic until the Reagan era.

Government is the solution, not the problem. Hopefully our lawmakers will come to realize that before another tragic train accident exposes our rail system for the embarrassment that it is.


DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 3 weeks ago

I don't think our lawmakers are going to come to realize anything other than their bank statements. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the difference between a good investment and a free giveaway to wealthy campaign donors. The only way our lawmakers are ever going to start thinking clearly again is when we remove all the bribery going on in Washington with Campaign Finance Reform; and, a Constitutional Amendment striking down Citizen's United. Our railway, highway, and bridges could all collapse and crumble into dust tomorrow; and, unless it does so when a Congressman is riding across it, they will never so much as bat an eye or give it a second thought.

John Pranke's picture
John Pranke 8 years 3 weeks ago

I thought I heard on the radio that the train was traveling over 100 mph in a 50 or 55 mph zone on that area of track. The engineer came out of some meeting with an attourney and made no comment. Going too fast on out dated tracks, thanks Reagan.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 3 weeks ago

Thom, I just read that Congress has cut 250 million dollars from Amtraks budget; Amtraks problems are going to skyrocket, given the lawsuits they're about to be hit with. It suks to be a railroad these days.

An example of crumbling infrastructure can be found right here in Indiana. The section of I-65 between Lafayette and Lebanon, particularly the southbound lanes, are so torn up there have been several accidents in the past year as a result of people losing control of their vehicles on rough pavement; I personally nearly flipped my pick-up truck about a year ago and I wasn't even driving upto the speed limit. The big trucks are warned to stay out of the right hand lane, or slow down, when going under bridges or risk their trailers bouncing high enough to hit the overpasses (which has also happened). And now the state is going to three-lane that section in both directions, but not by rebuilding and adding on to the existing lanes, but rather by adding one lane in each direction to the existing pavement. And their doing this to save money.

I personally no longer use that section of I-65; I use US52, as do many truckers who know about the problems with I-65. Its safer, and, amazingly, its faster.

oneworldatpeace's picture
oneworldatpeace 8 years 3 weeks ago

I'm a Viet Nam Vet that has watched the slow ruin of this country that has been accomplished on purpose. I've watched the dumbing of education that at current levels renders civil idiots as HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES that have no idea of history or evan the form of our Government never mind voting. All our Federal Law enforcers have been captured by industries that operate with open impunity or responsibility for their frauds. So now our Politicians want to turn this country into Mexico and our infrastructure is starting to look like it!

ScottFromOz 8 years 3 weeks ago

I've always thought that we elect politicians to make our country and our lives better. Since the time of Reagan and Thatcher, this is no longer true. We no longer have a choice from either major party of politicians whose intentions are to govern for the country or its people. Now we only have a choice between Tweedle-Corporates, or Tweedle-Oligarchs. None of the politicians serve other than their sponsors or themselves. The process that was started by Reagan and Thatcher has been turbo-supercharged by the partisan supreme court via the ironically named "Citizens United" case. A case that had absolutely NOTHING to do with citizens and everything to do with entrenching corporate rule in our country. A pox on SCOTUS and all of our grasping politicians.

We want our Democracy back.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 3 weeks ago

The Iraq war alone has cost over two trillion, and that figure will eventually grow to six trillion.

Two trillion on war for profit instead of on infrastruture for the commons. The terrorists win, they don't have to blow up our bridges, and tracks, our neglect does the job for them.

bobcox's picture
bobcox 8 years 3 weeks ago

First of all, i've changed my Interenet Service Provider. It is no longer Mediacom ( It is at

Last night the train from Washington, DC to New York, leaving Washington shortly after 7:00 PM, stopped at Philadelphia then proceeded toward New York.k About nine miles past the stop at Philadelphia it ran through a 45 degree curve at about 102 miles per hour rather than the required 50 miles per hour and all seven cars of the train plus the engine went off the track with 7 or 8 people killed and about 200 went to the hospital. Some with serious injuries.

Meanwhile, our congress passed a budget reducing the bukdget for the Amtrack railroad system.

The fasted trains in the U.S. taavel at about 125 miles per hour ukp to 150 miles per hour.

Japan just tested a maglev train at 375 miles per hour.

Spain regularly has 150 miles per hour speeds safely.

China has the longest lines of high speed trains in the world and we're behind like third world countries, inspite of having over 2 million riders on the Washington to Boston stretch of railway each year. Our Congress is not doing the right thing about the American public.

We should vote all of them out, except for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren!

bobcox's picture
bobcox 8 years 3 weeks ago

It will be interesting if the Train engineer was on the last leg of a 12 hour shift.

It seems that 12 hour shifts, in spite of the necessity for alertness on the job, have become the practice on major corporations.

Ttrukck drivers often exceed the time limits for driving long distances withouit sleep and airline pilots often go many hour without sleep.

Nukclear engineers, operators, are also having to work twelve hour shifts.


Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 3 weeks ago

To compare American railway system to ones in Germany Japan or China is unfair. Those countries whole infrastructure was built from scratch around the train. American cities developed around the car. The cost to change from the car to rail in the US would be unrealistic. I can't believe you are blaming Reagon. its been decades since he was president. If there was no infrastructure improvements done in the last seven years what did Obama spend a trillion a year on ?

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 3 weeks ago
Quote Kend:American cities developed around the car.

Not True! All of our major cities had various forms of mass transit, including rail, long before the car took over, and that didn't happen until the 1940's, after the war. Although Henry Ford made cars more affordable for the common man in the 1920's and 30's, trains and buses were still in big demand, especially for cross country travel. After the war, road building really took off and reached it's heights in the 1950's when Dwight Eisenhower started the Interstate Highway System; that's when America's love affair with the automobile really began, an affliction that has not happened to most other countries. As a result, many cities have RE-DEVELOPED for the car, and not always in a good way. And some cities are turning back the clock and creating pedestrian only areas and bike trails - no cars allowed.

jproctor67's picture
jproctor67 8 years 3 weeks ago

These Tealiban Bagger Terrorist Controlled Republicans in congress will never do anything to repair the rail system in the northeast because it is a very heavy democrat area, and they think they will punish the people there. Wed. 5/13/2015 the house passed a bill to cut $millions from Amtrac funding, a program already short on money to try and repair the old rail system. The current crop of the GOP has become so Un-American I find it hard to believe that this was once such a great political party that worked for all American's and not just their rich overlords. This will not change until $money is controlled in the American political process of electing people, now the GOP primary system is a joke because the big money has decided who they want and it seems the one they can control. Reagan was the first to be bought and paid for and everything he did was dictated to him by his money handlers, I'm not so sure that the attempt on his life wasn't a reminder that he had better not try and stray from what he was told to do and say. Nancy was their inside person and she passed all of the instructions to Ronnie Raygun from his owners. They were smart enough to not try and have an outsider giving him his orders when Nancy was already beside his side.

jproctor67's picture
jproctor67 8 years 3 weeks ago

The Railroad system was developed long before America had cars, ciries and towns grew up around where the rails would need to make stops for water or fuel, rails transport more products all across America tha the highway system. Prior to Ike America had a very poor highway system and he saw the need for a national highway system and most run along train tracks that were already there.

The $Trillion you claim President is spend is to pay for Dubya/Cheney's two Deadly, Needless and Unfunded Wars and to pay for the care of the severely wounded troops from those wars. I find it so interesting how your Racist Hatred for the Black POTUS totally blinds your side from seeing the truth about the crumbling transportation system

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 3 weeks ago

I didn't read all the comments so I don't know if anybody said this already or not but Kend, the American car manufacturers and the very fuel inefficient airlines were the ones who influenced policy on public transit and train travel making them not up to it but they could pretty easily be made worthwhile. Comparisons to Europe are not unfair. We borrowed the idea for the interstate highway system from them and could adopt a similar long train system.
Passenger railways used to be privately owned in long distance and metro travel but are no longer profitable so here - and in Europe - they are now publicly owned and provided by democratic government (which serves the people not the money) as they are still a valuable and essential service our society cannot do without.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 3 weeks ago

Not only did the auto industry fight train "modernization", but also big oil (you know, Kend's overlord). Thom gives the example of the "red cars" in Los Angeles ("red cars" were the streetcars that ran from downtown LA to the beach). Back in the early 20th century, GM and Standard oil told the govt that they would run them and they wouldn't have to raise taxes. Those "billionaires" made the "red cars" run so badly, everyone thought that driving to the beach was a great idea.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 2 weeks ago

Reply to #7 where Bob Cox says "Vote them all out, except Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren!" And Alan Grayson, and Dennis Kucinich... the buck doesn't stop there either. KNOW YOUR CONGRESS CRITTERS!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 2 weeks ago

Reply to #10: Thanks, stecoop, for saving me the trouble. And oh how I long for bike trails!

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 2 weeks ago

Dennis Kucinich isn't in office, so he can't be voted out anyway.

jpohl 8 years 2 weeks ago

15 years of Clinton and Obama was in there somewhere to undo the Reagan changes. Where is their blame? This is a problem with both parties. Nobody wants to address the problems.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 2 weeks ago

jpohl -- Clinton and Obama are not dictators. Card check, which I think is the key to righting the ship, had all democrats voting for it in 2009, and not one republican. Only one party is to blame.

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