• Michael Laxer

Think we can't afford free transit? Think again.

The $11 million per minute that the fossil fuel industry receives in subsidies shows that we can.

A bus in Kansas City which has extended its fare free transit program to 2022 -- via Wikimedia Commons


One of the very first things that anyone advocating for fare free transit will hear from most politicians and those in the public that have been indoctrinated to think it is a pie-in-the-sky idea is "how can we afford it?".


Well, as with so many things, what we can "afford" really comes down to what benefits corporations, capital and what "social democratic", liberal and right wing politicians say we can afford.


Remember when the Liberal Trudeau government instantly found over $4 billion to buy a pipeline?


Or the astonishing, scandalous transfer of wealth from the Canadian public to major corporations that was the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) .


Or, say the simply staggering amount of money squandered on military spending, most especially in the United States, but also in Canada as well.


Given that many, correctly, see expanded and free public transit as an essential step towards fighting climate change (and it serves many other goals as well), we can add to this list of "fiscally responsible" hypocrisy the astonishing levels of subsidies that the fossil fuel industry receives internationally.


Which are a simply stunning $11 million (US) EVERY SINGLE MINUTE. And this is according to the International Monetary Fund, which no one anywhere would describe as a leftist organization!


As reported in the Guardian (UK) "Explicit subsidies that cut fuel prices accounted for 8% of the total and tax breaks another 6%. The biggest factors were failing to make polluters pay for the deaths and poor health caused by air pollution (42%) and for the heatwaves and other impacts of global heating (29%)."


So even just taking the explicit subsidies we are talking about $1.54 million a minute globally.


That would pay for a lot of transit fares!


Fortunately, cities in the US like Albuquerque and Kansas City are starting on the fare free transit future.


And it is pretty clear that the money exists to make it happen basically anywhere in the developed world where there is the political will.

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