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“Boehner Rejects Amtrak Question As ‘Stupid'”: U.S. Investment In Infrastructure Has Become A National Embarrassment

It became clear yesterday that congressional Republicans came up with one talking point in response to the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia: “human error.”

The point, of course, is obvious. If the Amtrak 188 tragedy was the result of a person making a mistake, then there’s no need for federal policymakers to act, there’s no need for Congress to make additional investments in infrastructure, and there’s no need for Republicans to be embarrassed by slashing Amtrak’s budget just hours after the accident.

This morning, as National Journal noted, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) didn’t hold back on this point.

Boehner downright dismissed claims that underfunding for the rail system was responsible for the derailment in Philadelphia that killed at least seven people and injured 200 on Tuesday night.

“Are you really gonna ask such a stupid question?” Boehner said during his Thursday morning press conference when a reporter began to ask about Democratic concerns that Amtrak was underfunded because of Republicans. “They started this yesterday: ‘It’s all about funding. It’s all about funding.’ Well, obviously it is not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit.”

House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sounded a similar note on Fox News this morning, dismissing those who want to increase “the size of government programs,” all in response to an accident he said was “human error.”

The congressman added that he hopes “people won’t seize on political opportunities out of tragedies like this” to spend more money.

Let’s set the record straight.

Just on a surface level, even without consideration of the tragedy in Philadelphia, U.S. investment in infrastructure has become a national embarrassment. The United States used to lead the world in infrastructure innovation and development, and the more Republicans decided public investment in “government programs” is necessarily bad, the more other countries have surpassed us.

But specifically on this week’s Amtrak disaster, to dismiss this as nothing more than a tragic case of “human error” is to overlook the relevant details.

According to Boehner, “obviously it is not about funding.” In reality, it’s also obvious that a Positive Train Control system could have prevented the accident.

It’s equally obvious that PTC is not free. If Congress wanted to invest in the system, it could have. Indeed, it can make those investments now. At least for now, however, Boehner and his party don’t see it as a priority.

This might make the Speaker uncomfortable, but it’s anything but “a stupid question.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 14, 2015

May 15, 2015 - Posted by | Amtrak, Infrastructure, John Boehner | , , , , , ,


  1. Maybe the reporter to Boehner’s question “Are you really gonna ask such a stupid question?” should have replied with another question “Are you really gonna answer a question with another question and make another stupid remark!


    Comment by lrfalstad | May 15, 2015 | Reply

  2. Let’s see the former DOT head and former PA governor join together in a bipartisan way to say infrastructure investment is critical and will Aldo create jobs. The US Chamber if a Commerce joins in to say infrastructure investment is greatly needed. In the book, “That Used to be Us : How a America fell behind in the world it created and how it can come back,” infrastructure investment is noted as a key to our greatness. And, the Speaker thinks it is a dumb question. Has the speaker driven over an interstate at 70 mph and dodged pot holes? Does the speaker know if we don ‘t dredge our eastern ports, the bigger ships sailing through the expanded Panama Canal will bypass our ports and deliver in Canada? I guess it is more important to kill Obamacare as it is working and giving tailwinds to the economy.


    Comment by btg5885 | May 15, 2015 | Reply

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