40 Years of Reaganism Behind This Disastrous Train Crash

A train derailed and crashed into a station in Hoboken, New Jersey during rush hour this morning, reportedly leaving at least one person dead and more than 100 others injured.

After everyone was rescued from the train, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called into CNN and expressed concern and confusion about the accident, asking "How could this happen?"

He really wants to know specifics, like whether the engineer is to blame, and what specifically caused the train to derail and crash into the station.

Over time we'll get many of these answers, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Railroad Administration will investigate the extent of the damages and try their best to pinpoint a culprit.

But right now it looks pretty straight forward, like the crash could have been avoided if the train had Positive Train Control technology.

Positive Train Control technology automatically slows down a train if it goes over the speed limit on a stretch of track, and the NTSB blamed its absence for the train crash that killed 8 passengers outside of Philadelphia in May of 2015.

Trains all across the country are equipped with outdated technology, and it's because ever since Reagan's aggressive eight-year effort to do away with federal transportation funding to the states, attacking transportation funding has been a trademark of Republican policies.

Republican governors, including Chris Christie, still to this day insist on suffocating transportation budgets, paying for only the bare minimum infrastructure upkeep and updates, and then acting shocked when accidents like this happen and people die as a result.

Ryan R. Hall with the Tri-State Transportation Report issued a report earlier this year pointing out that capital investment in rail projects in New Jersey fell by 34% between 2002 and 2016, even though ridership went up by more than 20% over the same period!

The report also shows how they made up for the cuts by simply raising fares, raiding other state funds, and spending money that had been set aside for major projects like outfitting trains with Positive Train Control technology.

Chris Christie has cancelled or shelved a number of major projects since he's been governor, and over the last 15 years the state has taken more than $5 billion earmarked for major projects and instead paid for standard operating expenses, like paying workers' wages and keeping the office lights on.

And as a result, the Department of Transportation reports that New Jersey Transit trains had 213 major breakdowns in 2014 alone, more than two-and-a-half times more than the neighboring Long Island Rail Road, and four times the U.S. average!

Even though gutting transportation budgets and privatizing services has been a standard Republican play since Reagan, Chris Christie has shown a special contempt for public transportation while serving as New Jersey's governor.

And Christie refuses to sign a bill that would hike the state's gas tax and provide funding to keep the Transportation Trust Fund solvent, despite the fact that the bill has bipartisan support.

Christie has also called himself a "skeptic" about extending light rail in New Jersey, telling David Foster of the Trentonian in June that "[T]he idea of spending money and resources to extend [the New Jersey Transit River Line] to the Statehouse, I'm not so sure. Use Uber. You can get there."

That's right, Christie's callous response to whether or not New Jersey should expand light rail service was basically, "Just hire a driver."

And that's been the Republican response to calls for better, faster and safer public transportation going back to at least Reagan: 'Want safe transportation? Buy a safe car. Or, better yet, hire a safe driver. Can't afford a car? You can take your chances with the rest of the riff-raff on public trains and subways that haven't been updated since before Reagan.'

But safe transportation shouldn't just be for the rich, and modern infrastructure is the fertile soil in which businesses grow.

For more than 30 years before Reagan took office, our infrastructure was the envy of the world; but now, in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country that has ever existed on this planet, our infrastructure isn't just embarrassing, it's outright dangerous!.

And that's because it's been frozen in time during nearly 40 years of insane "trickle-down" Reaganomics and right-wing efforts to gut the American government, and every tragedy like today's crash in Hoboken is a stark reminder of how Reagan's right-wing policies have cost American lives.

Like the crash in Philadelphia last year, this crash was preventable, and we can prevent it from happening again, but to do so, we need to address our nation's infrastructure and public transportation crises.

We need to rebuild our crumbling bridges and tunnels, we need to expand and modernize our train systems, to make them safer and faster, and we need to ensure that in the 21st century, our cities, roads and rail ways are built to endure the effects of a rapidly changing climate.

If we want a safe and modern rail system that will save lives and be the envy of the world, we need to reject Reaganism once and for all, and we need a massive government investment to bring America's infrastructure into the 21st century.


cccccttttt 7 years 37 weeks ago

Would add one point.

US resources have been funneled into huge military budgets under BOTH parties for decades.

The American Empire is in over 140 countries with a budget exceeding the sum of that spent on defense by at least the next 8 other countries.

Repubs may rouse their base with "beef up our military" but the dems are right beside them on voting the money for war.


Legend 7 years 37 weeks ago

When the 1% ride AMTRAK then it will be improved. The 1% aviation airports for their private jets are among the best in the world. Many better than the commercial airports. Cities that I have worked in such as Busan, Seoul, Shanghai and Tapei have excellant subway systems and they are very reasonably priced. The middle class has cheap, clean and efficient transportaion. Our cities do not compare. Other countries have high speed rail. Ours has a rusted run down system.

Edward J. Dodson's picture
Edward J. Dodson 7 years 37 weeks ago

There is no real need for states (or even local communities) to depend on revenue sharing from the Federal government to fund the cost of infrastructure. Years ago I heard a one-time deputy mayor of New York City named Phil Findelstein give a speech on how any city could raise the revenue needed and even reduce those taxes that impose heavy deadweight losses on an economy. He said that taxes should be greatly reduced or eliminated on property improvements, on sales of goods and services and even on income derived from wages. What he told the audience was simple. What communities have to offer is a location, and the values of locations are based on both natural advantages (e.g., an excellent harbor, moderate weather, nearness to recreational areas, etc.) and human-created advantages associated with infrastructure and cultural amenities. Every location (i.e., every parcel or tract of land) has some potential annual rental value as determined by market forces. This value is not created by what any individual owner does or does not do to improve the location held. If only communities would collect this value, the result would be to eliminate the potential to profit from hoarding land or speculating in land rather than bringing land to its highest, best use. Economists who understand the economics of taxation and how land markets operate estimate that "location rent" comprises as much as one-third of GDP. In short, changing the way government raises revenue by moving to a land-only property tax base would provide a huge fund from which infrastructure improvements could be easily paid for.

Edward J. Dodson, M.L.A. / Director / School of Cooperative Individualism / www.cooperative-individualism.org

gallde's picture
gallde 7 years 37 weeks ago

Thom, you're right on the money - or lack of money. All modern modes of transportation - even outomobiles - have or are moving towards autopilot, except the OLDEST one, railroads. Yet, they have had electrical signaling for over 100 years, it just hasn't made the jump INTO the train itself. There's no excuse for holding PTC back anymore.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 37 weeks ago

Obviously the Bush tax cuts are part of the Reagan trickle down swindle/ideology, and one stat I was able to dig up indicates that just from 2001-2010 these cuts ended up costing the treasury 2.5 trillion. That's a lot of infrastructure money that wasn't! During that same time period a massive number of jobs went overseas and we had a economic crash.....that's trickle down.

Yet here we are in 2016 with the Trump/Ryan team wanting to keep America down again with that same old trickle down economy.

Clinton however has stated she wants to make America fair again by ending the insanity of trickle down..... !!!

BTW: Why isn't the media indicating which candidate Putin is trying to put in power with the voting machine hacks? We'd certainly hear all about it if Clinton was his chioce...!

rlthrockmorton 7 years 37 weeks ago

Or, while waiting for Positive Train Control, simply hire another engineer to ride along in the cab and take over when the regular engineer is distracted or disabled. We'd increase the number of jobs and add another potential home owner and tax payer.

Willy Lohman's picture
Willy Lohman 7 years 37 weeks ago


I agree with your assertion 100%.

The neo-libcon ideology of Mises, Hayek, the Austrian School of Economics, Ayn Rand, and the Chicago School of Economics under Friedman are at the base of the destruction of "Democratic rule" and economics for humanity.

Through "Think Tanks" and government collusion with the corporate and economic elite, the ideological attack on the social structure of societies and the foundations of democracy have found their way into the mainstream of North America.

After sponsoring individuals in "Third World Countries", during the 50's and 60's, with natural resources to attend the "Chicago School of Economics" under the direct tutilege of Milton Friedman, these converted apparatchiks returned to their native countries where they quietly rose in political power and created "new" government economic and social regulations; ready to be imposed with a US backed military coup, ie: Chile, etc.

The austerity applied to those citizens has refined itself into the non-military apostasy of Constitutional Democracy by deceptively conflating their neo-libcon "Fascist" ideology on ethical democratic economics by turning our "Use Value" economic system into the speculative greed of "Exchange Value" only system which is responsible for the obscene "Wealth Gap".

It is adherence to this skewed ideological precept that has hollowed out our social and democratic pillars through the belief of "Commodification, monetisation and privatisation of "EVERYTHING"! In the minds of power hungry, sociopathic narcissists, this is their license to ignore centuries of Humanist growth and laws respecting the "RIGHTS of MAN". In the Charter of the Forest- (1217), The Charter specifically states that "Henceforth every freeman, in his wood or on his land that he has in the forest, may with impunity make a mill, fish-preserve, pond, marl-pit, ditch, or arable in cultivated land outside coverts, provided that no injury is thereby given to any neighbour."

This was the first law for the Rights of Humans against the totalitarianism of the Barons, Earls and Kings

This neo-libcon ideology is a poisonous anathema to the hard fought "Rights for Civilians and the general welfare of society". As we are witnessing, the voice of the people has been bought out by the elite; the environment that sustains human life has proven to mean nothing to these greedy despoilers; the Civil Rights of Taxpayers are bulldozed by "The Rule of Law" which is nothing but a usurpation of our civil law through an undemocratic government-corporate collusion upheld by the "IMPS" who were taught to see the "Price of everything and the Value of Nothing"!!!

mlkrjr85's picture
mlkrjr85 7 years 37 weeks ago


Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to hartmannreport.com - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Screwed:
"Once again, Thom Hartmann hits the bull’s eye with a much needed exposé of the so-called ‘free market.’ Anyone concerned about the future of our nation needs to read Screwed now."
Michael Toms, Founding President, New Dimensions World Broadcasting Network and author of A Time For Choices: Deep Dialogues for Deep Democracy
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann channels the best of the American Founders with voice and pen. His deep attachment to a democratic civil society is just the medicine America needs."
Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties and director, Peace and Justice Resource Center.
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"In an age rife with media-inspired confusion and political cowardice, we yearn for a decent, caring, deeply human soul whose grasp of the problems confronting us provides a light by which we can make our way through the quagmire of lies, distortions, pandering, and hollow self-puffery that strips the American Dream of its promise. How lucky we are, then, to have access to the wit, wisdom, and willingness of Thom Hartmann, who shares with us here that very light, grown out of his own life experience."
Mike Farrell, actor, political activist, and author of Just Call Me Mike and Of Mule and Man