I spend a lot of my retirement advocating for transit, “for social justice”, so poor people can get to work and avoid the crazy expenses and the charlatans selling, repairing, stealing, towing, and ticketing cars in their neighborhood. And for the sons and daughters of middle class Americans being sent off on one after another nonsense mission to keep trade lanes open, propping up far away tin pot dictators, so our pointless thirst for this dirty and very limited product can be kept very temporarily available. Public transit works, where it works, which is all over the world.
Lots of people hate. Some whites hate blacks and hispanics, viscerally without justifying their feelings on a case by case basis. The same in reverse. English has provided cultural street terms for each group to mutter or shout at each other. Some men hate women, especially those that voice opinions. There are websites for women that hate all men, assuming they all bask in their privilege and are, by default, all assaulters in waiting.
Many under educated hate those with college degrees and their crazy ideas while some of those with degrees hate “the underclasses” for their often swayed political influence. Everybody hates lawyers and politicians, except the one advocating your favorite bill or representing you or your loved one; especially in a case of damage or abuse by a faceless corporation now playing hardball. That’s different.
People love the police, unless they recently received a speeding ticket. But they can separate “one bad cop” that wrote them that traffic ticket, but not so the one that shot an unarmed minority. That’s different. Then, all cops are good. People love the freedom represented by our flag, and you God damn better venerate that thing, or they will hate you with every ounce of their being. Even if the stars and stripes has come to represent personal harm to you or a loved one; even if that harm was delivered by the hands of the person angry at you for not screaming the national anthem from a mountain top. Ah, America, its best if you don’t pay attention.
Lot’s of people hate Public Transit. I don’t mean they simply don’t use it. That I understand. I mean they hate it, viscerally, with every ounce of their being. As an advocate and planner, this was unexpected and it os still rather strange to witness.
The first question they ask is: “Does transit ‘make money’”? I have just been in a rowdy conversation on this subject, pointing out the basic absurdity of this question. Does a police, fire, or EMT service “make money” or does it ensure a quality of life we’ve come to expect as Americans? Do Libraries “make money”? Do Hospitals, Jails, Border stations? Does the DA’s office make money?
Do prescription medicines make money? These same people get crazy mad that their heart pills cost so much, jacked up by “private sector” sellers that they then demand be protected from unneeded government regulations. Yet, they demand busses and city rail “make money”. For heaven’s sake why? The difference is they need heart pills, and they think themselves important to society. Not so, in their world, are those that need public transportation to get to work. And when “the other” can’t get to work, despite insurmountable hurdles, these same complainers will spend hours telling you how “the other” are lazy and unmotivated, not hard workers like “we” were, in the old days (when we were so poor we rode the bus and trolley to work).
I’m also told, “taxes steal jobs”. And since transit doesn’t “make money” it “consumes” taxes (“at the point of a gun” is usually added). Yet, transit CREATES jobs, by the thousands here in my little town, and by the millions across the country. No, I’m told, those are “government jobs”, so those don’t count. Government jobs are “drains on the economy”. Money spent by government employees does not help the economy.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is just plain nuts. And a person who believes such a thing cannot be reasoned with. They are point blank full of crazy hate for the society they enjoyed and have bought into “me first, you never” thinking.
In libertarian paradise, if a local transit department were “privatized”, meaning some billionaire “owns it”, yet it still functions exactly the same (the same vehicles, same headcount, same schedules) suddenly its wonderful. The same taxes are collected from the same sources, yet turning them over to “private enterprise” (a billionaire) as an “incentive” (skimming), magically makes them good not evil. Who, exactly, do you think started, and daily repeats, this nonsense propaganda? Working people? the poor? Hardly. Duh, follow the money. And it leads directly to the billionaire’s boys club that owns the media and can repeat this nonsense message ad nauseum.
The private “owner” takes each dollar from his public “contract”; he keeps a dime, and gives 90 cents to the same employee pool. All the bus drivers, maintenance crew, planners and schedules are first laid off then “rehired” at reduced pay, shortened work weeks, more unpredictable schedules to encourage turnover, and minimal benefits if any at all. They live in fear of being laid off “without cause” (a right to work privilege long ago given to billionaires). They suddenly live in a world where they can be wiped out by their next illness or accident; even a sick child or trying to advance themselves through night school. Just like the golden days of Carnegie, JPMorgan and Rockefeller where losing your arm work on a train or oil rig (stripped bare of costly safety equipment or procedures) meant also immediately losing your job plus any future income as well. The billionaires are winning at turning back the clock, and “transit making money” is just one piece of this puzzle.
We know what happens, we’ve seen it time after time. Training and safety are the first things cut, public records are hidden or altered, any “whistleblower” is fired and then vilified as evil in the billionaire media, in a repeated 10 minute loop (if not outright arrested). But suddenly, by magic, we are told that transit department “makes money” and those people now working crappy desperate positions have glorious “private sector jobs” instead of being dirty, filthy termites and maggots eating “our money” that could be better spent by the taxpayers. They are now working in the magic private sector so their salary is blessed by angels, instead of covered in filthy dung.
Yet, the money returned to the local economy is at least 10% to 20% smaller, while the funding take of out the local economy and given to “the owner” are exactly the same. And his cut flees the local economy to distant Wall Street or the Bahamas creating jobs for his distant plantation slaves, porters and maids, and for sweatshop laborers in rural Asian communities. That, the haters parrot for us us, is desirable, the common good. He eventually demands cutting routes (“unprofitable”) since he is not concerned with growing job and school access for the poorest citizens (to get them off the dole) or uncongesting roads to increase real estate values. If its theft, fraud, and scams are discovered, the “corporation” is dissolved and the citizens and stockholders are left holding the bag. Billionaires tell us this is good, just look at the Dow Jones. Surprised? Is there any question why the richest (those that own the media) want pesky questions and those that ask them to go away? And who tells us the media is left wing? Oh, thats right, the same group.
We know this confiscation model is true as it has already played out in privatized jails, privatized schools, and soon privatized public spaces and drinking water. Do privatized EMT’s give better service when a middle man does nothing but takes 10% of their check and cut wages & benefits? Then why don’t we privatize the state police and county sheriffs? We know stories of privatized fire departments standing around, watching a home burn to the ground. How does that help the city or the neighborhood? And we will still require elected boards and citizen boards of oversight over the public funds, but now, we see, with obfuscation of reporting at every turn with lawsuits dragging out for years just to see numbers.
Privatize the armed forces? Wait, we’ve seen what happens when cooks and electricians and drivers and service guards are “privatized”; handed over to the connected buddies of politicians in well-oiled cost-plus contracts. Trillions are wasted, innocents killed, corruption at every level is covered up then ignored by right-wing owned media. No GI bill or benefits because while they may be in Iraq these poor suckers aren’t soldiers. The same for privatized teachers and jail guards in the good old USA. Where does that money go? We all know.
And this hate, by the way, ignores the subset of transit users that are simply unable to drive; for medical, age, or DUI restrictions, that are now able to work (and pay taxes!), and live independently, going to the doctor, the store, living fruitful lives, volunteering, spending money in a robust economy. But what do I know, I’m an over educated crazed socialist that doesn’t love the flag (or so I’m told). Nobody wants to have a beer with me, and that’s the current standard for leadership for our nation. Slap your back, don’t think too hard, hurry up and pledge allegiance to something or other. Don’t even let busses near my neighborhood, I’m told, it brings in vermin.