The freedom to be trapped in traffic


From Robert Whitcomb's  "Digital Diary,'' in

"Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.''

-- Ambrose Bierce

That America is increasingly a plutocracy and not a democracy might be suggested by a story in The New York Times headlined “How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country.’’ The story details how the Koch lobbying group Americans for Prosperity has been working to block efforts around to address gridlock and air pollution. The Koches, who inherited their company, Koch Industries, from daddy use highly sophisticated data-analysis tools to sow fear, misunderstanding and confusion about projects they don’t like.

The Times story focuses on Nashville, whose voters, after an intense propaganda campaign by the Kochs, turned down a $5.4 billion public-transit program that polling before the Kochs arrived had been expected to easily win because the Music City is choking on car traffic and air pollution.


Good mass transit reduces traffic, boosts economic  development and reduces air pollution. (I’d add warily it also helps to address man-made global warming but most Republicans don’t seem to believe in that. After all, what do 97 percent of scientists know?) It’s no accident that the richest U.S. cities – New York, Boston, etc., have dense (if far from perfect!) mass-transit systems.


Koch servant Tori Venable, who runs Americans for Prosperity, came up with an intriguing remark on why the car culture should continue dominant in crowded cities: “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want, they’re not going to choose to public transit.’’ Eh? Millions of people take mass transit every day because they want the freedom to nap, to read, to brood, and to avoid being hit by the idiot weaving in and out of lanes while texting.

Among the assorted inane things that Koch-connected people say about public   transit  came from Randal O’Toole,  of the Cato Institute, who said “Why would anybody ride transit when they can get a ride at their door within a minute that will drop them off at the door where they want to go?’’

Well, how about those folks who don’t want to be trapped in traffic, which ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are making much worse in many downtowns.  Buses, trolleys and light rail take cars off the roads. And what about poor people who can’t afford to pay ride-hailing services (which jack up their prices substantially at job-commuting times)?

Rarely do the Koch Brothers act for any other reasons than economic self-interest, e.g.,- promoting wide-open immigration to keep wages low and tax cuts focused on the very rich. So consider that Koch Industries is a big producer of gasoline and asphalt and makes a variety of automotive parts. The more  that people drive, the richer these billionaires become. To read The Times piece, please hit this link.

Of course, the Kochs can fly over the traffic in their helicopters.