As this state is about to receive its share of the stimulus package signed last week, there are many ideas being thrown around for public projects to spend the money. A proposed Minneapolis to Chicago Amtrak line is being seriously considered. Gov. Jim Doyle traveled to Spain this week to test how efficient their rail systems are and is hoping to model this new rail system after theirs. However, given the continuing downward trend the economy is showing, suggestions to use the majority of this stimulus towards a three-state railroad system seem inefficient. There are better ways for this money to be used.
The proposed idea of a Minneapolis-Chicago Amtrak of Gov. Doyle will have stops in Madison and Milwaukee also. That being said, any geographer (or a well-informed kindergartener for that matter) would conclude that the majority of this rail would be in Wisconsin. What is still unclear at this time is whether the majority of the cost would be paid for by Wisconsin. During a conference call from Spain, Gov. Doyle did not shed light on how this project would be constructed or paid for, but he assured the citizens of the state that “the opportunities for us to move forward in Wisconsin are very good.” Other than the fact that he showed he not only knows our state motto but believes it, I begin to question whether he really knows the consequences of his proposed idea. Although the economies of Madison and Milwaukee would gladly accept the new business, the other cities of the state would not see any benefit from a railroad system through Wisconsin. It is not fair to the other cities if we spend the stimulus money on a system that benefits so few.
If we are to use this money to help bring our state out from economic hardship, then why are we focusing on plans that do not affect every citizen in this state? Instead, we should be funding every city with projects and essentially localizing the stimulus package. It is a great injustice that we give the state any part of the stimulus money. The state cannot know exactly how every city will be affected by this recession. Therefore, the stimulus money should be given directly to each city to distribute wisely. The economy of Green Bay is not the same economy of New Berlin. It would make no sense to try to solve both cities’ problems by having state produced programs.
Having a state funded rail system does not serve every citizen that will be paying for it. What people are failing to realize is that this is not free money. It is an advancement the citizens will pay off later through taxes. Therefore, making every citizen pay for a rail system that benefits only those who use it seems ethically wrong. Although they are the two most populous cities in Wisconsin, their economies will not fix the others in the state.
By having the package distributed equally based on population to each city, it would better help every economy. Instead of using the money to produce a project that boosts the economy of a few cities, why not give cities money towards public work projects. As we compare this recession with the depression in the 1930s, the thing that helped boost economies was public work projects. If we adapt that same principal today, should that not boost our economies also? Building things such as new parks, schools and roadways would bring jobs to the city and make every city that much better. There are problems in every city of this state that need fixing, and it would be irresponsible not to use this money towards improving them. There is not going to be another war to pull us out of this hard time. We have been fighting one for the last six years, and look where it has led us. We need to focus on the other programs of the New Deal that helped stabilize the economy.
The bad ideas of Gov. Doyle can now include the Minneapolis-Chicago Amtrak idea. It is not the appropriate time for this program to take place as it would be fiscally irresponsible to do so. This state, with its growing unemployment rates, needs programs that will help everyone find work and help stimulate the economy. Although this program would give jobs, it is better for the cities to give jobs locally to the unemployed. This is why the importance of local public work programs is necessary. As Gov. Doyle comes back from Spain with an itch to go European, let’s hope he didn’t bring us a billion dollar souvenir back with him.
Zach Day (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freshman majoring in journalism.