Republicans are getting burned on the mag lev talking point.

I’m loving this myth that the stimulus bill contains $1B for a mag lev train from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Republicans have kept parroting this talking point long after the media caught on that it’s not true, leading to embarrassing spectacles like this exchange with Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA):

While a social moderate, Sonny Bono’s widow is a solid conservative. Talked to her about Obama’s $780 billion stimulus legislation. She’s outraged that the plan has “$1 billion wasted on a magnetic-levitation train from L.A. to Sin City” – all at Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s doing.

After expressing my doubt that the Las Vegas line was actually in the bill’s language, Bono Mack directs her staff to “get him the bill, it’s right there, show him.” A few minutes later, a staffer emerges with a copy and quietly says “it’s not in the bill.”

Here’s hoping Republicans keep flogging this talking point. It’s a good one. By the way, I’ve got a bridge to sell to anybody who believes that a magnetic levitation train can be built clear from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for just $1B.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

11 replies on “Republicans are getting burned on the mag lev talking point.”

  1. I first saw the report about the Las Vegas train on Feb. 14 in a Bill Kristol column. With a bill that’s been rushed through so quickly, isn’t it possible for bad information to get out? If the Democrats had allowed more transparency, there wouldn’t be this discussion.

  2. But as we saw in the quoted exchange with Rep. Bono, the problem here is people repeating information without making the slightest attempt to verify whether it’s true. The text of the bill is more than sufficient for somebody of the caliber of Rep. Bono or Bill Kristol to understand what is or is not being funded.

    For you and me, of course, it’s a different matter entirely. Hence

  3. Considering how much money is being spent on AIG and the fact that not one of those bastards is in jail yet- a billion on a new tech systems actually does not bother me at all. It’s actually sounds kind of cool.
    In this economy the republicans cannot just be Dr. No. They’ve got to say what they would do and why it’s better. Otherwise minority status is theirs for many years to come. (unless they nominate Terry for governor, of course)

  4. Isn’t for after the money is spent?
    People aren’t confused about what’s in “The Cat in the Hat.” The confusion usually comes from huge government legislation passed without a five-day period for review.

  5. Isn’t for after the money is spent?

    No, it’s for after the bill was passed. (There was some criticism because it was a placeholder while the bill was being debated, which may have been the source of your confusion.)

    The stimulus bill for the most part doesn’t contain specific projects; it has types and categories, and the specific spending will be determined by grant applications or by state governments. is for monitoring that process.

    It’s possible to be confused about what’s in the bill, though it hardly seems like the lack of a “five-day period for review” is much of an excuse, since it’s now been more than two weeks since the bill was passed. And since it’s been available online in searchable form for that long, there’s really no reason to believe that people who incorrectly say that something very specific is in it are making any effort to argue in good faith.

  6. Did I miss it when Republicans were in control of Congress and made bills available online for five days before voting? How is this about the Democrats refusing to allow transparency rather than about the tradition and inertia of Congress regardless of party?

  7. …um, hold on just one freaking second. Transparency? The problem is transparency? It took Congresswoman Bono’s staff a matter of minutes to refute their own claim. Moreover I’m unclear on what level of transparency we need in order to prove a negative, which is to say, to demonstrate not only what is in the bill but also what is not in the bill. If I wanted to allege that the stimulus bill set aside eleventy-gazillion dollars for genetically engineering a more disease-resistant unicorn, would it have been incumbent upon Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to proactive state that they did not fund such a program for the sake of transparency?

    I’m not sure this word “transparency” means what you think it means.

  8. I guess they’re assuming that Senator Reid is going to appropriate some of the stimulus bill’s high-speed rail money ($8 billion, I read) for his mag lev train dream.

    I, for one, am fully confident that the Majority Leader will pass on this money and allow other more deserving high-speed rail projects to be funded.

  9. The Republicans were pilloried for not living up to their claims. If Obama and the Democrats fail to live up to their promises, they should be blasted also. It takes a village to blast them all.

  10. I would think that the last thing people are worrying about is Rep. talking points about a bill they had little to no influence on. Maybe they got confused because this project has already received funding in Congress. The 8b in funding does not come with a specific target on which projects it will benefit, and there are many Californians who like this project; maybe it will help move the project forward.
    Reid has been competing with several other politicians; he has pitted this project against the proposed adding of a couple of new corridors in the upper Midwest. While the people quoted got it wrong, the LA-Las Vegas corridor is more than just a talking point. If it were “shovel ready,” I’d bet that it would get some money out of the pot.

  11. the republicans cannot just be Dr. No

    I totally get what you’re trying to say here, but your use of this phrase really bugs me for one reason: wasn’t the character “Dr. No” infamous specifically FOR his use of fancy, expensive gadgets? To the extent that the titular film sort of singlehandedly popularized that cliché?

    ack, now I can’t get that mental image of Cheney-as-Blofeld out of my head…

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