There’s been a lot of talk over the last week about a bailout of the auto industry. Some say that the American economy will be destroyed unless auto industry jobs are preserved, but that isn’t really accurate, if you think about it. What the economy needs is not auto industry jobs in particular. The economy does not depend upon a certain sector of jobs being preserved. Rather, it depends upon a certain number and quality of jobs being preserved. If all the jobs in the auto industry disappeared over the next year, but were replaced by an equal or greater number of good jobs from a different source, well, that’d be just fine, wouldn’t it?
The auto industry has demonstrated that it’s not a reliable source of jobs. A transfusion of money won’t change that, because the problem is systematic.
Besides that, preserving current manufacturing capacity for automobiles ignores the necessity of the historical moment. Individual passenger cars, whether powered by fossil fuels directly or indirectly (through electricity from coal-fired power plants) are inefficient and dangerously polluting. Individually-operated automobiles are a personal hazard, and have been a destructive force for American communities. America has been poorly served by the redesign of life around the car.
Cars and other individual automobiles won’t, and they shouldn’t, completely go away. However, for most of us, there’s no reason to have a car… if other reasonable, cheaper and more efficient forms of transportation are available.
Trains are one such transportation alternative.
What if the money being proposed for Wall Street and Detroit were utilized instead to fund a significant expansion of high-speed rail transportation? High speed rail is cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable than driving on the roads or flying through the air. High speed rail can be even faster than air travel on many highly traveled routes.
Why should the government bail out a transportation system that is past its time? We have an opportunity now to look forward instead of hanging back in the past.
Senator John Kerry has introduced S. 3700, the High-Speed Rail for America Act, a law that would fund 5.4 billion dollars worth of bonds to pay for high speed train lines. That’s a good start, but it’s next to nothing, compared to the Wall Street bailout.
Congress needs to give us some real credit. We need to get America moving – in the right way, and it’s going to take a lot more than just 5.4 billion dollars to get the job done.