Donald Trump is President in large part because voters in thousands of small towns and cities, tired of feeling like they are ignored by politicians in the big cities, wanted a change.
What they are getting, however, is a change that threatens to cripple their mobility, cost thousands of jobs, isolate them from mainstream society and wreak havoc on their economies.
Under Trump’s proposed budget, funding for rail and air transportation to small towns and cities across the nation’s heartland would be completely eliminated or severely cut. Trump is asking Congress to cut $2.4 billion from the transportation budget which would eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak’s national network trains, which provide the only rail serve for 144.6 million Americans in 23 states, according to the National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP).
For many of these towns which don’t have easy access to any airport, the rail link is not only about transportation but is also crucial to receive and ship freight. That translates into lost jobs, a disincentive for manufacturers to invest there and higher costs for goods and food.
“It’s ironic that President Trump’s first budget proposal undermines the very communities whose economic hardship and sense of isolation from the rest of the country helped propel him into office,” fumed Jim Matthews, President of the NARP said on his group’s website.
“These working class communities – many of them located in the Midwest and South – were tired of being treated like ‘flyover country,'” added Matthews. “But by proposing the elmination of Amtrak’s long distance trains, the Trump Administration does them one worse, cutting a vital service that connects these small town economies to the rest of the U.S.'”
Matthews is also angry at Trump for cutting these communities who supported him in the election out of the plans to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
“Instead,” says Matthews, “we have seen an all-out assault on any project – public and private – that would advance passenger rail. These cuts and delays are costing the U.S. thousands of good paying construction and manufacturing jobs in America’s heartland at this very moment.”
Matthews’ blames Elaine Chao, Trump’s Transportation Secretary and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY), who has already indefinitely suspended a grant for a commuter rail electrification project in California which would create an estimated 9,600 jobs.
That delay, adds Matthews, also threatened the construction of a railcar assembly plant in Salt Lake City which would generate 550 sustainable, family-wage jobs.
Among cities that Matthews says would lose all long-distance AMTRAK service are Albuquerque, NM; Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Charleston, SC; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Houston, TX; Little Rock, AK; Palm Springs, CA; Reno, NV; Salt Lake City, Utah; Yuma, AZ; and dozens of others.
Calling this a “nightmare” for Middle America, Matthews laments: “These hard working, small town Americans don’t have airports or Uber to turn to; they depend on these trains.”
A single B-2 Stealth bomber costs over $2 billion, which means by ordering one or two fewer planes, the American heartland could continue to have the rail service and the small airports that the government subsidies, which makes life there livable.
Instead, Trump will pump up defense spending at the cost of the livelihoods and mobility in a staggering betrayal of the millions of people who voted for him expecting the opposite result.
There may not be a train to deliver the message being sent, but it is loud and clear: Trump can’t be trusted.