How is the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia related to the financial disaster in Illinois that is being blamed on active and retired teachers along with other public employees?
Both are legislatively created disasters which have horrific potential consequences for all involved. This is no exaggeration.
The inexpensive, low-tech requirement called positive train control is already used worldwide. There is no doubt that positive train control could have prevented the train wreck and the accompanying deaths and crippling injuries. Human error or no human error, probably no accident would have occurred. This specific safety regulation was required for America’s trains this year in spite of the fact that train industry lobbyists and political donors had already watered down the regulations concerning the scope of this public safety requirement.
The bill’s main sponsor, Senator Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri, received nearly $300,000 from the railroad industry. One senator in one key position.
The Obama “administration” as part of a court proceeding in 2011 had already successfully limited the scope of the financial costs the train industry would have to pay for the simple safety feature of positive train control. But when corporate masters want all the money they can grab immediately, well…
A relatively few dollars were spent on politicians and their employees to assure the train industry short term big bucks for industry execs and their cronies. To hell with the risks and consequences for all other human beings.
In Illinois the ex-Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and both supermajority (D) legislative bodies signed a pension cutting bill; according to them, teacher pensions caused the financial ruin of the state. Those greedy teachers expected the pension debts to be paid by the state as legally contracted. Politicos instead paid huge amounts to incentivize their donors. (There actually is no crisis except for the propaganda that claims there is. Even Senate President Cullerton admits that no actual pension crisis exists.) Present Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) wants even greater pension theft to occur. The bill would have stolen wages from active teachers and other public employees while stealing earned compensation (pensions) from retirees. These innocent scapegoats would have been ravaged except that the state Supreme Court declared the bill unconstitutional.
Gov. Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have made millions personally as private equity managers. Rauner made more millions by managing these same teacher retirement funds; he knows precisely how to drain them for personal and crony’s profits. Both Rauner and Emanuel have super wealthy investors who make millions and millions of dollars by having the bond ratings for Chicago or Illinois lowered into junk status. The lower the city or state rating, the higher the interest charges are. A win-lose situation. Wealthy investors win; everyone else suffers and loses. These two guys are dealing cards from their own stacked deck.
Train wreck coverage by national media for one city are more photo worthy and dramatic than career teachers who cannot afford to pay for their families’ necessities and healthcare. The foreclosed homes and rapid deterioration of retired teachers whose pension checks are used for food and medical coverage make for few photo-ops. Many Illinois retirees were not allowed to pay their mandated 9.4% of gross pension payments into Social Security or Medicare. Pension checks are all they have. Health coverage still comes out of their pension checks as it did for their active years. The state healthcare cost can easily cost a married couple over $1,200 per month from each pension check. Of course, the photos are not going to be very instant or dramatic, nor will they induce viewers and readers to tune-in or purchase the media coverage. No matter; the suffering would be real enough for the victims.
What do the two events not have in common?
The train wreck was indirectly caused by paid politicians and had questionable time and degree outcomes. The gory media coverage brings more viewers and media profits.
What do the two events have in common?
Legalized bribery of politicians by insanely wealthy greed masters who make fast-money for short-term profits with long-term horrendous results are guaranteed.
Below is the excellent analysis by DemocracyNow of the causes and effects of the Amtrak train crash. In particular, David Sirota’s commentary is insightful.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The death toll from Tuesday’s Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia is now at seven and is expected to rise. About a dozen passengers are still missing. Some 200 people were injured, several critically. Seven cars derailed, with sections of the train so mangled people had to be rescued with the aid of hydraulic tools. Authorities now say the train was traveling at about 106 miles per hour, more than double the speed limit, as it headed into a steep curve. National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said yesterday the accident was preventable…
The positive train control technology prevents trains from going faster than the speed limit. It was not installed at the site of Tuesday’s crash. Federal rules require the national rail network to have an operating positive train control system by the end of the year, but in March the Senate Commerce Committee voted to extend the deadline for implementing the new technology until at least 2020.
DAVID SIROTA: Well, there’s a technology called positive train control, which is a pretty, by our standards, low-tech technology. I mean, it’s logistically—it’s a logistical challenge to implement it, but it’s not anything—it’s not rocket science. In 2008, Congress passed a bill mandating that positive train control be implemented on the nation’s rails by the end of this year, 2015. That seems like a long time, but what happened a few weeks ago was, under pressure from the private rail industry, the Congress began moving forward a bill to delay the deadline for the implementation of positive train control. So a couple weeks ago—again, before this crash—senators, in a bipartisan fashion, on the Senate Science and Commerce Committee pushed through a bill to delay the rule. The NTSB has said that if positive train control had been implemented on this stretch of railway, which it wasn’t, that this crash would have been prevented.
And we looked at some of the campaign contributions. The chief sponsor of the bill, Senator Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri, has taken $290,000 from the railroad industry. You know, it’s not to say that if the rail—if the bill had passed, or didn’t pass, it would have solved everything, but it shows that Congress has not been really pushing the rail industry to get this implemented. And I should add that in 2011 the Obama administration, in a court proceeding, limited the scope of the amount of tracks that positive train control should apply to under that rule.