Jerry’s Train…

I was watching a “news” report on my local Fox affiliate.  (I watch it for the weather…girl.)  They were doing a story on Governor Jerry Brown’s efforts to build a high speed rail system in California.  They emphasized that the project has doubled in cost estimates and is behind schedule in construction.  The project never attracted the private investors expected and the Federal government can’t be counted on to pony up any more than they already have.  In short, after all the expenditures, planning, and preparations, the project looks, increasingly, like it may fail.

Governor Brown’s mistake was simple and honest enough: he still sees the United States of America as a forward-looking country…but we’re not.  Not anymore, anyway.  The United States used to lead the world in just about every way it was awesome to lead the world.  Many parts of the world have benefited from our example.  But not US.  We beheld the benefits we had discovered and/or developed and, in blind thrall to “special interests” (read: greed), walked away from all of it.  Jerry’s Train has become the perfect metaphor, a forward-looking project in a backward-moving environment.

In the 1930’s, the US was struggling – perhaps failing – under crushing income inequality.  FDR introduced a new, more fair, economic system.  It worked so well, it created the greatest, strongest middle class the world had ever seen.  It was SO obviously SO successful, other countries began adopting the New Deal principles that made it work.  THOSE countries developed and refined the underlying concepts and created strong, vibrant economies that benefit the vast majority of the people who live there.  But not the United States.  No, we chose to walk away from that success and exchange it for more of the same, crushing income inequality we had previously defeated.

One part of the economic solution was to invoke worker protections.  Things like unions, the forty-hour workweek, enforced overtime pay, and sick leave made the working environment functional for everybody.  Then, some self-interested party challenged those ideas with slick-sounding slogans like “Right to Work.”  Every time I hear that, I have the same thought: slaves have ALWAYS had the “right to work.”  Really, it’s the right NOT to work from time to time that creates a healthy work/life balance.  The US used to know that.  Most First World nations still do but the United States has steadily abandoned the ideas – by choice.  If you’re not all work, all the time, you’re simply “not trying” and you “deserve to fail.”  There’s not much emphasis on the idea that if you ARE all work all the time, you’re increasingly facing the reality of failure anyway, I’ve noticed.

The United States used to have one of the most developed infrastructures on the planet.  One could count on clean water, working toilets, and electricity anywhere one went.  Today, our infrastructure is literally crumbling beneath our feet.  Some people blame the greedy politicians.  Some blame the greedy people who bought the greedy politicians.  It all works out the same in the end, though.  Unsafe (or unavailable) drinking water, crumbling sewer systems, bridges one may or may not make it all the way across, and gas supply systems that blow up homes rather than keeping them warm have become “normal” because we, the people, chose to ignore the problems…

Our educational system was once the envy of the world.  We set the standard.  Other countries took up the challenge.  They saw the benefits of a well-educated society and moved to emulate the success of America.  Then, they exceeded anything America had ever implemented – simply by moving forward along the obvious path.  A better educated society is a stronger society.  Better access to education is a better educated society.  Tuition free college, anyone?  Sure, in the First World countries.  Some of those countries even provide a stipend to people attending school.  But not in the United States.  In the United States, we’re making it harder to get an education at all, let alone a college education.  If you DO get to college, you’ll spend the rest of your life paying off the student loans issued at usury rates.  We undercut our own world-class educational system – by choice.

The First World is embracing and expanding renewable energy resources at an incredible pace, a forward-looking ideology.  The United States is pushing coal, a backwards-moving technology.  First man on the moon.  Now we have to hitch rides from other, more successful countries just to get to the space station…

At every stage, in every way, the United States of America has turned her back on her own citizens and her own accomplishments.  If it was good, if it could benefit Americans, it had to go.  All of it, abandoned by choice.  Regression, deterioration, decay…by choice.  Hell, we even have a proto-human in the White House now…

I’ll tell you this: when I think of Jerry’s Train, I feel regret.  Jerry Brown is an older guy.  He still remembers America when she was THE “can-do” nation on the planet.  He didn’t think High Speed Rail should be too challenging to our forward-looking country.  Apparently, he failed to grasp that we’ve become a backwards-moving nation.  The bits of Jerry’s Train that have been built stand as a shining reminder of what the United States was once, what she could have been, what she should have been – but chose not to be…

1/15/18 10:49: edited to correct a typo…(mb)

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