Democracy vs Plutocracy Public Transportation

Dave Johnson

Here is a letter in a recent “Mr. Roadshow” column in the San Jose Mercury News. The letter illustrates the problems in plutocratic/libertarian thinking vs democracy. (Note: Caltrain is the commuter-rail line serving towns between San Francisco and San Jose.)

Your recent article on Caltrain’s $30 million deficit is once again showing your socialist leanings. Saying Larry Ellison of Oracle or Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google or Steve Jobs of Apple should rescue Caltrain is one of your famous inane ideas. If Caltrain cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. Just how much taxpayer money is used to fund the likes of Southwest Airlines, Greyhound Bus or any taxi services? As a taxpayer, I have never received a billing statement from any of these companies for not using their business! If you want the rich to pay for Caltrain, I suggest you tax rich athletes, actors, entertainers, the major news network anchors and, of course, rich politicians such as Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, to name a few. Private business is the heart of America! Not government! Maybe you should quit the Mercury News and go to work for Gov. Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown and become director of Caltrans.

Let’s look at the assumptions in this letter:

  • If XXXX cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. (Insert Caltrain, Public Radio, schools, libraries, health clinic for the poor, etc., as needed.)
  • Private business is the heart of America! Not government!
  • No taxpayer money goes to help airlines, bus companies, etc. operate.
  • Never mind the idea of public infrastructure, courts, etc. that provide the underpinnings of all business. An airline can’t operate without an airport, air traffic control, weather forecasting, etc. A bus or taxi company cannot operate without roads, police, and the rest of the system. No business would exist without courts and the financial system…

    I want to explore a deeper question. What are we, as citizens in a democracy, entitled to? Yes, that word, “entitled.” There are things we are entitled to because we are human beings and citizens. We are supposedly still a one-person-one-vote system and not a one-dollar-one-vote system, and we are supposedly entitled to equal opportunity, equal access and an equal voice.

    But for-profit systems only respect those with lots of money. In a democracy is it right to require people to have a lot of money have access to transportation? To health care? To information?

    What are your thoughts?

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