On February 3, an explosive derailment led to the evacuation of an Ohio town but it was not until Tuesday, February 21, 2023, that U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg responded to the fact that more than a dozen train wrecks have been reported in the U.S. since the year began.
“Profit and expediency must never outweigh the safety of the American people,” said Buttigieg, in a press release issued long after the smoke cleared from the catastrophic incident. “We at USDOT are doing everything in our power to improve rail safety, and we insist that the rail industry do the same – while inviting Congress to work with us to raise the bar.”
“Railroads may be an indispensable part of America’s economy, society, and way of life but our rail system has not been kept safe for the workers who operate it or the communities that rely on it,” said progressive environmental activist Lisa McCormick.
McCormick made the remarks after 12 train cars of a Union Pacific coal train went off the track east of Gothenburg, Nebraska, in the third derailment at the same location within the past 6 months.
“In recent years, a number of high-profile freight rail incidents across the U.S. and Canada—including one that left nearly 50 people dead— should have led to the passage of significant new rail safety rules but strong opposition from industry paralyzed the nation’s corrupt money-driven political establishment,” said McCormick, who openly wondered why 40 billionaires and their spouses contributed to Buttigieg when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Buttigieg got donations from 13 big-money donors who gave exclusively to him—by far the most of any Democrat running for president. Two of those donors have connections to Donald Trump.
Jennifer Pritzker, a transgender retired Army lieutenant colonel who inherited a chunk of the Hyatt hotels fortune and previously backed the president, was giving to Buttigieg. So was Daryl Roth, the wife of Trump business partner Steven Roth.
More than one third of Buttigieg’s wealthy benefactors got rich in finance and investments. That group includes seven who built their fortunes from hedge funds, including Bill Ackman, Philippe Laffont and Seth Klarman.
Buttigieg also received support from tech industry donors including Wendy Schmidt, the wife of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings, a duo that recently helped host a fundraiser for Buttigieg in Silicon Valley, according to Recode.
Buttigieg said that taking donations from rich people did not make his campaign polluted by corrupt interests but McCormick, who earned four out of ten votes in a 2018 primary challenge to corrupt US Senator Robert Menendez spending only $5000, said taking large donations from ultra-wealthy people did pollute his campaign.
McCormick previously called on Buttigieg to resign after he let rail companies deprive employees of sick time by imposing a contract that could have required paid time off for sik and injured employees railway workers.
She also complained that Democratic centrists like Buttigieg are trying to shut down progressive candidates and policies in order to defend corporate power and structural inequality.
Although McCormick did criticize Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson for prying into Buttigieg’s sex life in a social media post that said: “Buttigieg’s private sexual preference is nobody else’s business and he shouldn’t have to admit anything except, as Harvey Milk said: ‘Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets.'”
Buttigieg told reporters on Monday that he plans to visit East Palestine, Ohio, “when the time is right” but the Transportation Secretary has left residents questioning the safety of their soil, air, and water in the wake of the train disaster.