Riding the Rails

The New York Times has been diligently writing about the state of our nation's rail system and how dangerous it's become, thanks to poor oversight by the federal government and the carelessness of commercial rail carriers. This is not a glamorous story or one that capture headlines around the country, but it is an important one.

In previous articles they've written about the system in which Amtrak is responsible for paying damages for accidents caused by commercial rail carriers (which means your tax dollars are paying those damages), and poor safety standards of the commercial carriers. In today's article they paint a frightening picture of the state of crossing signals, which often don't work, and whose problems, when reported, aren't fixed.

If you ride trains - or if you drive over train tracks, as anyone here in Houston does repeatedly - it's quite frightening. And it costs lives. (I'll be slowing down and looking more closely the next time I head down Heights Boulevard and over the tracks.)

I wonder when people voted for Bush for "smaller government" if they stopped to think that this is how government shrinks: the rail lines become unsafe. Drugs that kill you get approved by a weakened FDA. Consumer protections agencies don't have the resources to go after wrongdoers. Is that really the "smaller government" they wanted?

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