Adult family discussion in Arkansas... The same old discussion about America should have trains like Europe has.
It started in a political discussion, where I shared my ONE big beef with W Bush.. that we had needed a dollar a gallon tax on gasoline for decades, Carter couldn't do it, Dukakis and Tsongas proposed but couldn't do it. Taxing a substance people use too much of is difficult in a democracy, even if it makes sense because it is a limited resource (like oil) that will not result in more supply as a result of the over-consumption (the MIT school of economics suggests they will drill deeper, but that is not a multi-generational perspective).
Anyway, after September 11 and leading up to the invasion of Iraq, there was a window of opportunity for a Republican to announce a gas tax which would have been accepted, would have balanced the budget, and would have resulted in far more investment than "stimulus" and government spending on energy alternatives. During that window of opportunity leading up to the invasion, (which I distinctly remember did include an intelligent argument citing Korea, Japan, West Germany and other cultures which had economic booms following USA invasions - WMD was not the main argument in my mind) Bush could have passed a war tax on gasoline.
Now we are back to people suggesting the government solve the energy independence dilemma with tax incentives and new programs. The trains idea is always popular.. if there were more trains, there would be fewer cars, right?
It's a liberal idea which seems to market itself based on European vacations and Disneyworld monorails. In fact, the USA already spent the money on highways which already run from city to city like trains would. The cheap and easy solution is buses. I ask why not ride buses, and the glossy European vacation is replaced by images of class intermingling in inner cities. So people would prefer to spend 10X more on trains than it would cost to make nicer buses and a tax on gas to pay for them. Liberals like trains, conservatives hate taxes. The only opportunity to fuse the two towards an intelligent solution is during a war. Riding a bus is both patriotic for pro-war patriots and green for rainforest liberals. We could sit together in buses and have the same political arguments I'm listening to now at a picnic table in the Ozarks.
My kids had a different discussion, with the locals standing on the cliff at the Buffalo River. A 50 foot jump into 9 feet of river, with a great view, is like a bus ride in that it takes a long time to gin up the courage to jump, and talking to the local kids on the same bluff comes naturally.
My son told the kids we were visiting my family in Searcy County but we are from Vermont.
One 14 year old girl, in beautiful drawling singsong, asked my 14 year old son if he was going to go to Yale or Princeton? She was a good Arkansas student of geography like I was. (My son Morgan deadpanned he was "wating to hear back from Princeton." I was standing nearby, and asked "About the Janitor job?" which got a laugh from the girl and a cute smile from my son.)
A different 14 year old boy, when he heard my son say he was from Vermont, had the other Arkansas response.
Both kids will grow up to vote where the rails should go. I think voting for nicer buses is a safer option.