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After London, Just As After Madrid, Our Republican Leaders Fail To Take Mass Transit Security Seriously

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Republicans clearly don’t care about mass transit security.

Senate Republicans twice on July 14 rejected amendments to the Homeland Security appropriations bill —- pressed by senators from states with large urban centers -— to increase money for mass transit protection by as much as $1.4 billion.

First, Republicans failed to restore $50 million in rail and transit security grants to state and local governments, slashed by the Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committe in May.

You may recall that in the wake of the London bombings, G. William Hoagland, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), told CNN that the Senate planned to restore the $50 million cut. But the Senators must have had short memories — they failed to restore the grant money when passing the appropriations bill.

Democrats — who saw their plans to add $3 billion in spending to the FY 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations bill nixed by Repubicans, which would have included $350 million for rail security — were hoping that the London bombings would provide a wake-up call to their Republican colleagues.

Robert Byrd (D-WV) authored the other failed amendment, seeking to increase mass transit security spending by more than $1 billion.

He told his colleagues: “The horrific attacks in London a few days ago were eerily similar to the attacks in Madrid, Spain, in March 2004: targeted, coordinated, and timed bombings. Sadly, crowded subway systems and trains have become inviting targets for terrorists. We have witnessed the hysteria and the chaos that these events can trigger. Could it happen here? Of course.”

But the Senate, voting along party lines, nixed Byrd’s amendment 55-43-2. Only Kent Conrad (D-ND) crossed party lines.

***

Byrd also reminded colleagues of their failure to support two other mass transit security bills last year: “Last October, the Senate passed two bipartisan rail security authorization bills, S. 2273 and S. 2884, that authorized additional funding for securing mass transit and rail systems, but the bills did not make it to the White House. ”

S.2273, authored by John McCain (R-AZ) would have authorized more than $1 billion in rail security improvements and require the Department of Homeland Security to analyze rail vulnerabilities. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the bill in April, 2004, but the bill was never approved by the full Republican-controlled Senate.

S.2884, authored by Richard Shelby (R-AL), sought a three-year, $3.5 billion commitment for mass transit security. It suffered a similar fate.

So, if you are scoring at home, the Republican-controlled Senate has had five chances to increase spending on rail security — three times after the Madrid train bombing, twice more after the London bombings. And they have failed all five times, even when the legislation was authored by their fellow Republicans.

***

Elsewhere in our Republican government, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appeared before the House Committee on Homeland Security and was roundly assailed by Democrats who accused him of neglecting mass transit, especially in the wake of the London bombings.

To make matters worse, he explained to the Associated Press on July 14 why mass transit security should take a back seat to aviation security: “A fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people,” he said, evoking 9/11 imagery.

Then, he added words that infuriated urban leaders nationwide: “A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people.”

Clearly, Chertoff doesn’t understand the theory behind “mass transit.” It’s not one little choo-choo train carrying a handful of passengers. In urban centers across America, it’s dozens, if not hundreds of trains, subways and buses, each potentially carrying dozens, if not hundreds of passengers.

And as unconscionable as it is to think that terrorists could use an airplane as a suicide bomber, killing thousands, imagine a bus packed with explosives ramming into a building. Imagine the casualties of a train packed with explosives detonated in New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which serves several hundred thousand passengers daily, but also sits below Madison Square Garden, or Grand Central Terminal, which serves several hundred thousand passengers daily, and is connected to a hotel and a retail concourse.

Chertoff’s statement doesn’t make sense for another reason — daily usage of mass transit is higher than daily usage of airports in many urban centers.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

New York’s bus and subway system, which carries a staggering 7 million riders a day, has been the target over the years of at least two alleged attempted terrorist attacks, both of which were stopped before they could be carried out.

“Michael Chertoff is a very smart guy, but I couldn’t disagree more,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, told the AP.

Chicago’s transit system is the nation’s second-largest, serving 1.5 million riders a day. Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi told the AP he was “shocked” at Chertoff’s comments.

“They’re basically telling us what we should be doing, but they’re not funding it, even though the threat is from international terrorism,” Kruesi said.

In San Francisco, Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Linton Johnson told the AP that officials were “very disappointed” and “completely stunned” by Chertoff’s comments.

BART carries 310,000 passengers a day, nearly twice as many as the San Francisco Bay area’s three major airports combined, Johnson said.

“A terrorist can affect more people on a train,” he said. “One fully loaded BART train holds more people than a 747.”

Meanwhile, Washington’s Metro system has an average daily ridership of 700,000 on the subways and 500,000 on buses serving the District of Columbia and its suburbs.

***

Is it just coincidence that the majority of mass transit systems are located in so-called “Blue States” — California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, etc.

I know it’s cynical and blatantly partisan, but I agree with the urban leaders — with regard to mass transit security, the actions of our Republican leaders don’t make sense.

***

This article first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.

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About David R. Mark

  • Tao Jonez

    yo David, here’s the skinny on why.
    republicans don’t ride the trains and buses in the city.
    that real enuff for ya, playah?

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I don’t suppose you’re interested in WHY so many Republicans opposed these transportation bills? Just claim it’s because they’re greedy and not concerned enough about homeland security and go on your way. All you wanted was to score some political points anyway, right?

    Well, the actual facts are a bit different from your partisan spin festival.

    The reason so many opposed these bills and the reason why people are pushing hard for a veto on the worst one is that like a lot of transportation bills they are loaded to the gills with pork – most of it is Republican pork this time around, which may explain why the pork-fed Dems are so unhappy – they aren’t getting theirs. Trasportation bills are notorious as repositories of pet projects and outrageous spending for home district interests, and these bills are particularly awful.

    My favorite pork project is, of course, the $200 million bridge to an island in Alaska with 50 residents who don’t even want it. This one was for a Republican Senator, but pork is non-partisan.

    S. 2273 is particularly troublesome because it has no provisions to assure that the money assigned to various forms of transportation are allocated to the places where they are most needed. They could very well be divided equally among the states, or sent to pet projects instead of where they are needed. So you might end up with billions for unnecessary rural highways in a powerful senator’s state and nothing for the Lincoln tunnel.

    S. 2273 is a bill which watchdog groups have referred to as a “Fiscal Monstrosity.” This bill is now at $295 billion, $41 billion more than President Bush even asked for. Bush’s original proposal addressed all of the transportation security issues and did it generously. All the added items since then have been pure pork. In 1987 President Reagan vetoed a similar bill which had 200 pork projects added onto it. This bill has 4000 earmarked pork spending items in it.

    Here are a couple of sources for details on the absolutely outrageousness of these bills. CAGW, WaPo.

    Spending on homeland security is certainly very desirable, but that doesn’t mean we should indulge wasteful spending. The government is already in a big enough hole as it is.

    Dave

  • Georgio

    I wish someone would propose a bill to eliminate all ad ons..

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    So Republicans found bills sponsored by McCain and Shelby to be wasteful? Fine. Byrd’s bill would have provided grants to states and municipalities. If someone was worried about pork, he or she could have attached an amendment to the amendment with rules as to how the grants could be distributed, thus avoiding the pork.

    It’s ironic, because DHS has been one of the worst places for waste and fraud our government has ever produced. There was a Washington Post story, I believe on June 30, discussing an internal audit that was completed by the government that found that $300 B of $700 B spent by DHS was being questioned as waste and fruad — things like tens of thousands of dollars for Starbucks coffee, or to rent equipment that was cheaper to buy. There was something about more than $1,000 for extension cords, and $50,000 or so for cell phone calls from one worker (what the hell plan does he have?)

    If that has given all Republicans the jitters, fine. But that shouldn’t prevent spendy on worthy causes — not just mass transit security, but chemical and nuclear plant security and port security.

    And no, Dave, I’m not trying to score political points. But when you have Republican leaders — and I’m thinking specifically of Bush, Cheney, Rice and Frist — speaking far and wide about how much safer we are, when the DHS acting inspector general, Richard Skinner, says the opposite, it pisses me off.

    And when Frist’s office says that the $50M in grants is going to be restored, and then Frist joins his fellow Republicans in voting against the grants, that equally pisses me off.

    I just think the American people should know what their leadership is doing — rather than saying — about us being safe from terrorist attacks.

  • http://sussfr.blogspot.com Matthew T. Sussman

    I’m pretty sure this doesn’t qualify as a News post.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Thanks for the catch.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Don’t forget the awards DHS is constantly giving their employees, flying them in from around the country to attend million dollar award banquets, all on the government tab.

    The point is that some people felt that it was not a good use of our homeland security resources to spend them on pet projects which had nothing to do with homeland security. The idea in rejecting the bloated porkfest is to start over again and hopefully do it right. Wouldn’t that be better than wasting all this money that should go to our security needs?

    Dave

  • Tao Jonez

    i wish i could believe dat hype, Dave. but too much spare ribs already on the plate for this homie to take any kinda shit from the repubs seriously about that benig the motive. and don’t even ‘front on how it’s Dems fault, they can’t get shit passed, and you know it, and you know why. cut the pork fat is all good, but starting with trains and buses is bullshit, and you know it.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Tao, it wasn’t blocked by the republicans, the bill has been opposed by a number of Senators from both parties who actually listen to the loud complaints coming from the various government waste watchdog groups. This is actually not about partisan politics, it’s about good responsible government.

    Dave

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    Untrue. As I stated in my article, the McCain and Shelby bills passed with bipartisan committee support.

    The Byrd amendment got support from all but one Democrat, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, but was opposed by every Republican who voted. The effort to restore the $50M in grants was supported by every Democrat, but failed because it had no support from Republicans.

    The bill last year to add $350M for rail security was introduced and supported by Democrats, but killed by Frist and the Republicans.

    But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good argument, Dave.

  • beadtot

    Gee, was there a member of the
    ‘Vickery’ extended family on each of the bombed mass transit vehicles?

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    “In the past four years, the federal government has spent about $9 per flying passenger, but only 1 cent per transit passenger,” Rep. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said in delivering his Democratic Party’s weekly radio address. “While the money we spend on aviation security is absolutely necessary, we cannot afford to forsake public transportation security.”

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Sorry, David. I had just assumed that opposition was bipartisan on the belief that there must be some good, fiscally respoonsible Democrats. I guess I was wrong and there aren’t.

    Dave

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    Dave, you so easily change the subject when you are proven wrong.

    But anyway, addressing your new point:

    Given the prospect of $1.35 trillion of permanent tax cuts being pushed by the Republican leadership, I think the Democrats have been the more fiscally responsible of late.

    And spending money on mass transit security and being fiscally responsible are not mutually exclusive things.

    But ignoring an obvious problem, as the Republicans are willing to do, is both fiscally and politically irresponsible.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    David, I didn’t change the subject, I just made a small point.

    As for fiscal responsibility, the greatest responsibility of the government is to assure that our economy prospers, and that’s what tax cuts are all about. There are two ways to increase government revenue, to raise taxes and impoverish the people, or to strengthen the economy so the people have more money and therefore end up paying more gross taxes. The first leaves everyone poorer, the second leaves everyone richer. That being the case I say bring on the tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

    As for spending on mass transit, as far as I can tell neither party was opposing that. There were just some – mostly republicans – who objected to tacking all that pork onto it. Every dollar spent on pork is one less dollar spent on homeland security, but I guess that waste is fine with you.

    Dave

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    You have provided no proof that the Byrd amendment, nor the McCain or Shelby bills, nor the $50 million of grant money that the Republicans cut, then said they’d reinstate, then voted to remain cut, were full of pork.

    As far as I can tell, each of these proposed grants for states and municipalities, for such things as video cameras, police and police dogs, and screeners similar to the ones found in airports.

    As for the tax cuts, if they were beneficial to the masses and they didn’t create an even larger deficit, I would be happy to support them. But this administration has benefited the waalthy overwhelmingly, not just with income tax changes but with other taxes — estate taxes, corporate taxes, collection of taxes, cutbacks in IRS agents, etc.

    The result of all of that? An economy that is ok — not great, not terrible, most likely weaker than under Clinton (although he didn’t have to deal with a war or 9/11). The tax code is more unfair, and, like Reaganomics, Bushanomics has created record deficits, erasing the road toward surplus that occurred under Clinton.

    There are better ways to build a mousetrap, Dave.

  • Tao Jonez

    yo Dave yer sayin – “the greatest responsibility of the government is to assure that our economy prospers,”

    i gotta be contrarian here playah, the biggest thang the gov hasta do is “provide for the common defense”

    like makin dem trains and buses safer, ya dig?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>You have provided no proof that the Byrd amendment, nor the McCain or Shelby bills, nor the $50 million of grant money that the Republicans cut, then said they’d reinstate, then voted to remain cut, were full of pork. < <

    I haven't read the bills yet, but I do know that the $2 billion bridge to nowhere in Alaska did NOT get cut, nor did the $1.5 million bus stop in Anchorage. Right now I'm just getting info from pork watchdog groups. Haven't had time to go through the 4000 items in the bill to figure out which are pork.

    >>As for the tax cuts, if they were beneficial to the masses and they didn’t create an even larger deficit, I would be happy to support them. But this administration has benefited the waalthy overwhelmingly, not just with income tax changes but with other taxes — estate taxes, corporate taxes, collection of taxes, cutbacks in IRS agents, etc. < <

    A fine argument from a premise which is fundamentally untrue. Any tax cut on any segment of the population benefits the entire population because it increases investment, capitalization, new ventures and grows employment. Our corporate tax rate is still much too high - almost as high as many European countries. The Estate tax has been a destructive force for too long, crushing families, causing loss of property and driving people who are in the middle class downward economically as generations pass. As for the tax rates themselves, they were cut by a flat percentage, which clearly benefits everyone equally.

    >>The result of all of that? An economy that is ok — not great, not terrible, most likely weaker than under Clinton (although he didn’t have to deal with a war or 9/11). < <

    Actually, I'm in the process of crunching the numbers on this for an article, and it looks like we've just caught up with Clinton's best years on most of the major indicators and passed his highs on several.

    >>The tax code is more unfair,< <

    But less unfair than it was.

    >>and, like Reaganomics, Bushanomics has created record deficits, erasing the road toward surplus that occurred under Clinton. <<

    A surplus which was the result of the delayed effects of Reaganomics.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>yo Dave yer sayin – “the greatest responsibility of the government is to assure that our economy prospers,”

    i gotta be contrarian here playah, the biggest thang the gov hasta do is “provide for the common defense”<<

    Ah, but the purpose of providing domestic security is to make sure that the country remains calm and stable so it can be economically prosperous. You can’t make money in a state of anarchy.

    Dave

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    So, Reagan created $200B deficits, Bush 1 created $300B deficits, and Clinton managed to balance the structural budget — but that was the delayed effect of Reaganomics?

    C’mon, Dave. Let’s stretch reality more, huh?

    That would mean that Bush 2’s $400B deficits must be the delayed effect of Bush 1’s policies, right?

    Give Clinton some credit — he was more “fiscally conservative” than his predecessors or successors, and the economy roared for the bulk of his time in office.

    And as for Bushanomics, I hope when you “crunch the numbers” you take into consideration all the costs that have passed from the federal government to the state and local governments, and thus passed on to individuals indirectly. For example, because Bush failed to come through on promised spending for things like No Child Left Behind, my state, New Jersey, has had an increased burden. Multiply that by several programs (another was increased homeland security costs — because NJ, although at higher risk of terrorism, doesn’t get a larger share per capita than Wyoming — thanks to our cockamamie system), and, in a so-so economy, my state-level taxes have risen, and my property taxes have risen more ($1,700/year since Bush became president, after a negligible increase in three years of homeownership under Clinton).

    I’m sure you’ll say that Bush isn’t to blame. But states have to balance budgets, and they face restrictions on what they can cut — look at the “tough choices” that have faced Gov. Schwarzenegger in California. So when states have increased spending burdens as a result of responsibilities passed to them from the federal government, at a time when tax revenues aren’t rising, they have to pass those things along to residents.

  • Tao Jonez

    yo Dave, da purpose fer providing domestic security is so yer voters ain’t dead
    that may fly in chi-town, but not across the country
    ya dig?

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    I hope when you “crunch the numbers” you take into consideration all the costs that have passed from the federal government to the state and local governments, and thus passed on to individuals indirectly.

    The Republicans will never take such a thing into consideration because it doesn’t suit their arguments. But to return to the main issue of this post, Dave N. discussed problems with the bills that were rejected by the Senate, but did not address Chertoff’s comments, I suppose because the latter actually directly reflect distorted Republican priorities without the issue of pork to distract from the philosophical point. Is it any wonder city dwellers continue to vote overwhelmingly for a Democratic federal government? Republican-controlled administrations and Congresses always, always, always short-change the cities. Chertoff’s comments are offensive to me and millions of people who rely on mass transit.

  • Sid Badakhsh

    Dear Mark,
    Wouldn’t it be more effective to get away from all the misinformation spread by republicans and start looking into the causes behind terrorism? Subjects such as America’s interference in other people’s affairs, supporting corrupt regimes such as Saudia Arabia’s family in power and thus robbing the moslem countires of their natural resources. Ineffective measures with astronomical expeditures for additional security in the mass transit systems may prevent several attempts but you know well that these added security measures will not stop all attacks unless the roots of this problem are addressed.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>That would mean that Bush 2’s $400B deficits must be the delayed effect of Bush 1’s policies, right? < <

    No, at least in part the delayed effect of Clinton's tax increases.

    >>Give Clinton some credit — he was more “fiscally conservative” than his predecessors or successors, and the economy roared for the bulk of his time in office. < <

    Clinton does get some credit. He didn't increase spending as much as he might have, so he maximized the benefits fo the economic boom at the same time as stifling the long term benefits by raising taxes so that by the end of his administration recession was inevitable.

    >>And as for Bushanomics, I hope when you “crunch the numbers” you take into consideration all the costs that have passed from the federal government to the state and local governments, and thus passed on to individuals indirectly. For example, because Bush failed to come through on promised spending for things like No Child Left Behind, my state, New Jersey, has had an increased burden. Multiply that by several programs (another was increased homeland security costs — because NJ, although at higher risk of terrorism, doesn’t get a larger share per capita than Wyoming — thanks to our cockamamie system), and, in a so-so economy, my state-level taxes have risen, and my property taxes have risen more ($1,700/year since Bush became president, after a negligible increase in three years of homeownership under Clinton). < <

    I'm just looking at the end results, so all of that gets factored in automatically. I'm examining consumer costs, salaries, disposable income, employment levels and the like.

    >>I’m sure you’ll say that Bush isn’t to blame. But states have to balance budgets, and they face restrictions on what they can cut — look at the “tough choices” that have faced Gov. Schwarzenegger in California. So when states have increased spending burdens as a result of responsibilities passed to them from the federal government,< <

    It's not entirely Bush's fault, but he shares the blame with Congress. The unfunded mandate is all on Congress, but the worthlessness of No Child Left Behind in general is on Bush.

    >>at a time when tax revenues aren’t rising, they have to pass those things along to residents.<<

    This is actually untrue. Tax revenues are rising dramatically on both the state and national levels.

    Dave

  • Steve

    Security on public transportation definitely needs to be increased and the first step is searching passengers, especially young, middle-eastern males. When are republicans going to get serious about security and realize that racial profiling is the only way to make Americans safe. Enough of this political correctness bullshit.