A recent article in Salon titled, “The Tea Party’s War On Mass Transit” attempted to make the case for preserving public transportation, against Republican efforts to direct gas tax revenues away from public transport agencies and into roads, through a bill by the House Ways & Means Committee. This bill would, naturally, reduce taxpayer funding for things like bussing and metros by a significant margin. In typical leftist fashion, the author paints the bill as yet another microaggression in a vast culture war against blacks, gays, and urbanites, as well as an assault on the economies of cities. All of these arguments, however, fall flat on their faces when one stops to think for a moment.
First, the article’s author tries to defend public funding for transportation by saying that, “Without it [public funding], transit would be devastated, and urban life as we know it could become untenable.” They go on to state that cities, “which are the chief engines behind the American economy, rely on buses and trains to function.”
For now, let’s put aside the counterargument that public transit is, in the vast majority of cases, a money pit – that train and bus lines, which may run several trips with little to no passengers aboard, operate at a net loss, and that individual motorists work at a much higher efficiency. Instead, let’s ask ourselves: If public funding was removed from governmental transit authorities, would bussing and trains cease to exist? The answer, fortunately, is “no.”
If cars were not a viable alternative for city dwellers, and public transportation collapsed, that would open the door to private busses and private subways. If the demand for bussing is high enough, which it apparently is, companies would have no problem attracting the customers and revenue necessary for maintaining a transportation system. Better yet, customers would get exactly what they are willing to pay for, and the companies could be held accountable to those customers, unlike in the monopolized world of public transportation. A free, voluntary exchange is always healthier than a coercive government program.
Now, to address the aforementioned “culture war,” the author wants one to think that “defunding transit is how you smack down urbanites, environmentalists, and people of color.” He accuses fiscal conservatives of “referencing the stereotypes of city culture itself: full of swindlers and gays and blacks and other suspect types.”
This is almost funny; since just a few paragraphs earlier, he says that, “from guns to abortion, the extremist wing of the Republican Party has fought to turn back the clock on many socially progressive ideals.” Yes, that’s right – those who criticize unprofitable public transportation support the Second Amendment and do not support abortion in all cases are racist, homophobic elitist. It reminds me of a certain president who once said that rural folks “cling to guns or religion, or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them.” But who are we to judge our all-knowing “progressive” masters? It’s not like they’re incapable of balancing a budget!
But let’s raise this question: What gives an entity the right to seize wealth from individuals by force, and then redistribute that wealth to its own employees? The Salon article contained one small kernel of truth: that there are “suburbanites who don’t understand why their taxes are going toward subways they don’t even use.” To answer these taxpayers: It is because a group of small-minded collectivists believe that they can spend your money better than you can.
Photo Credit: Paul Trebor