By Frank N. Wilner, transportation economist and author - 01/27/09 05:51 PM EST
(Regarding article “Rail group seeks track to stimulus funds,” Jan. 24.) One must wonder just how far down the road to socialism and serfdom Congress wants to take the American taxpayer when it seriously considers providing subsidies to freight railroads that are remarkably profitable.
Indeed, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway fund has increased its holdings in BNSF Railway to some 22 percent, and some one-third of the shares of other major railroads have been gobbled up in recent months by domestic and off-shore hedge and investment funds.
Wall Street analysts and rail officials have been widely quoted as to the industry’s sustainable pricing power, which stems from so many of its customers that ship coal, chemicals and grain having no effective alternatives to rail.
Indeed, the House and Senate judiciary committees appear serious about putting a bridle on rail monopoly power by — gasp — subjecting railroads to the same antitrust laws as other American industry. See H.R. 233 and S. 146.
Subsidizing profitable railroads with earmarks in a stimulus package — railroads that are demonstrably exploiting their market power — painfully and recklessly adds to the financial train wreck we already are bestowing upon our children and grandchildren.
Out-of-touch Boehner vulnerable in 2010
From Anne Blaisdell
If House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) nixes the upcoming stimulus package, he is likely to go the way of Newt Gingrich by getting booted out of office. He simply refuses to recognize the new political reality of this recession and is out of touch with his constituency.
Boehner represents a lower- to middle-income district that includes the Rust Belt cities of Hamilton and Middletown, plus economically depressed rural areas. With widespread under-employment in his district and his favoring the rich, he won’t be back in Congress after the next election cycle if he continues to deepen the recession so to satisfy his wealthy supporters.
If there was a solvent one around, you could take that to the bank.
West Chester, Ohio
Gillibrand’s support of same-sex marriage
From Karen Ann DeLuca
(Regarding article, “Gillibrand backs gay marriage,” Jan. 23). The general public seems astonished that newly minted New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) came out in support of same-sex marriage. I’m not.
Her former congressional district includes Catskill, my hometown of 30 years. While it is the Greene County seat, like much of the Mid-Hudson Valley between suburban New York City and the Capital District, Catskill was in economic decline for decades — one of the reasons I relocated to the Washington area after law school in the 1980s. Recently, however, the village and surrounding area — previously best known as the landing point of Henry Hudson, for its mid-20th-century summer resorts and as the training ground for an up-and-coming Mike Tyson — has experienced a resurgence and revival, almost single-handedly due to the influx of gays and lesbians from New York City.
Ms. Gillibrand is not unaware of this, and she will need the support of her former congressional-district constituents in her statewide reelection bid in 2010. But more important than the political catering of her position is its exposure to the nation that “bucolic” doesn’t necessarily mean “backward.”
Morris’s nine lives
From Greg Roach
With all due respect, has anyone been tracking columnist Dick Morris’s batting average over the past eight years? I understand that punditry is not an exact art, but if a weather forecaster’s predictions were wrong half as often as Mr. Morris is, he would have been fired long ago. At what point does the fact that he worked briefly for Bill Clinton become overwhelmed by his actual record of gross inaccuracy when gazing into his crystal ball?
North Adams, Mass.