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Mass Transit Needed
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Building More Cars Is Not The Answer

By James Donahue

The Obama Administration’s proposed “cash for clunkers” bill and various other government-backed incentives to encourage people to buy new cars may appear to be a temporary fix for the nation’s collapsing automobile industry. But we believe our lawmakers are blindly pouring good money after bad and ignoring a golden opportunity to set a new course for the future.

Anyone who has spent exasperating hours in long traffic jams while just trying to get to their daily job, or go on a shopping or vacation trip in many of our nation’s heavily populated metropolitan areas, is keenly aware of a burning need for a complex of mass-transit systems designed to help move people from place to place. The time of America’s love affair with the automobile is long over. Operating a car in that kind of traffic is not fun, no matter how many gadgets you design to keep drivers and passengers entertained and physically comfortable while waiting in long lines.

People living in these heavily populated areas are suffering from a growing number of lung disorders, the direct result of breathing carbon emissions from all of those automobiles rumbling past their homes on a maze of highways. Many cities now issue daily smog alerts, warning people with asthma, emphysema and other pulmonary problems to stay indoors where home air purification units give them a cleaner air mix to suck into those sick lungs.

It is estimated that there presently are 125 million automobiles currently licensed and operating within the United States. The nation’s total population is estimated at just over 304 million. That means one operating automobile for every 2.75 people. If you eliminate all of the children, the handicapped and elderly who no longer drive, we believe the ratio comes very close to one car for every eligible driver. And that is just too many cars.

Instead of trying to trade old “clunkers” for new fuel-efficient cars, we should be doing everything in our power to reinstate and build high speed railway, subway, bus and other people-moving systems designed to make it easier, less costly and safer for all those people to get to and from their daily jobs and trips to and from the grocery stores.

We especially like Michael Moore’s proposal for converting the old General Motors and Chrysler industrial plants, and using them in a way similar to what Roosevelt did when America entered World War II. But instead of retooling to build tanks, jeeps, bombers and other war machines, we retool to give the nation a badly needed new transportation system. Now that the government literally owns these companies, forcing such a restructuring would only take an act of Congress and a stroke of the president’s pen.

And Moore makes it clear that we are involved in a very serious war . . . not against a fascist government out to take over the world, but against ourselves and our own greed.  He wrote: “The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call ‘cars’ may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.”

Moore also notes that the world is also running out of oil, the fuel source by which we operate all of these automobiles. He says the oil companies have encouraged the continued building of all these cars because it is making a lot of people very wealthy. But, he warns, “they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early Twentieth Century who didn’t give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the people what they know to be true . . . that there are only a few more decades of usable oil on this planet.”

Moore’s plan:

--Establish a five-year plan to build a high-speed train system designed to criss-cross the nation, linking all of the major cities.

--Build light rail mass transit lines in all large and medium-sized cities to move people from place to place.

--Establish energy efficient clean bus services in areas not served by train lines.

--Built hybrid or all-electric cars for people who must have automobiles.

--Provide tax incentives for people who travel by hybrid car, bus or train and credits for people who convert their homes to alternative energy.

--Transform some of the empty GM plants for construction of windmill generation systems, solar panels and other alternative energy systems.

--Impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This would encourage people to switch to alternative energy sources and generate badly needed new revenues to help pay for these government financed programs.

We believe President Obama and our elected leadership should be giving Moore's suggestions some serious consideration.