The recent fatal crash of an Amtrak passenger train has truly brought out the best in conservatives, who have long fought against funding for the passenger rail system. When confronted with the consequences of their actions this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did the responsible thing: flipped shit and then walked the hell out of his press conference, to laughter from reporters:
Reporter: There’s been some criticism, beginning with Democrats, that Amtrak was not well funded enough and that Republicans have…
Speaker Boehner: Are you really going to ask such a stupid question? You know, they started this yesterday, ‘It’s all about funding, it’s all about funding.’ Well, obviously it’s not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there. no money’s been cut from rail safety. and the house passed a bill earlier this spring to re-authorize Amtrak and authorize a lot of these programs. It’s hard for me to imagine that people take the bait on some of the nonsense that gets spewed around here. Thanks.
Anyone who has been paying attention to the non-stop coverage of this crash, however, knows that the Positive Train Control System (PTC) that was mandated by law to be installed on all passenger trains by the end of this year would have prevented that crash. “It is simply a fact that insufficient funding for Amtrak has delayed the installation of PTC, and to deny a connection between the accident and underfunding Amtrak is to deny reality,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Thursday.
The PTC system had been installed on the train that crashed, but had not completed testing in time to be placed in operation at the time of the crash.
Republicans have also pushed, as recntly as a few weeks ago, to extend the deadline for installation of PTC until the year 2020, and in an ironic reversal of hindsight, voted this week to cut funding for Amtrak, including $825 million for PTC technology.
But beyond PTC, railroad safety advocates have been all over TV saying there needs to be a second driver in these trains, something that would also cost more money.
This issue is one that is replayed any time there is a disaster in which clearly identifiable political solutions are evident: Republicans decide to make the “tough decisions” that put the public’s lives at risk, then accuse people of “politicizing tragedy” when those risks come home to roost. That argument would be a little bit easier to stomach if these guys ever learned from their mistakes, but once again, when confronteed with the consequences of these “tough choices,” their response is the usual, “Tough shit.”