The modern day progressive religion masquerading as a political ideology has roots stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century. Its leaders were not only Democrats like Woodrow Wilson, but Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt. Their commonality was the belief that government had a rightful place in pursuing a role in the interests of business, not to the benefit of its customers, but to shrink that in the private sector that was big so as to grow the authority and influence of government. In many cases, like that of the railroads, the government meddling of progressives destroyed industries and left both businesses and customers more impoverished.
The rail industry in the United States got a late start in developing compared to other countries like France and England, but within the years between 1820 to 1840 the United States laid more track than all other countries combined. The growth of the railroad, by private interests, culminated in the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 by the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. The privately run railroad industry, which included city trolleys, gave customers an inexpensive method of travel that was both faster and more comfortable than horseback or even stage coach.
In the early 1900s, the rail industry kept the price of passenger fares low by subsidizing them by also hauling freight. That was until Louis Brandeis, the newly formed Interstate Commerce Commission, and Theodore Roosevelt, using the regulatory power of government, put enormous downward pressure on fees railroads could charge to haul freight. The mere mention of fare increases by the railroads set in motion advocacy groups like Joseph Eastman's Public Franchise League. Further demonizing the railroads as big, greedy corporations trying to use their unfair advantage in public transportation to price gouge.
Many railroads were crushed by the heavy hand of government, aided in their task by the advocacy groups, simply because they were big. Progressives like Roosevelt and Brandeis made no secret of the fact that they considered big corporations evil simply for being big. The nationalization of the railroads by President Wilson during the first World War put the final nail in the coffin of the railroad industry. Even after the war when the railroads were denationalized, the epitaph for this once great and thriving American industry was written in the blood of government ink.
Today, the passenger train industry is all but gone, run entirely by the government rail known as Amtrak. A government enterprise that every year, surprise surprise, bleeds red ink comprised of taxpayers' dollars. It is ironic that today's progressives who are pushing for passenger rail projects, funded of course with taxpayer dollars, are descendants of the progressives of the early 1900s who destroyed the passenger rail industry then and sent Americans running to buy automobiles. It is the perfect illustration of what Ronald Reagan said about those on the Left, "They see something moving and they want to tax it. If it keeps moving, they regulate it. If it stops moving they subsidize it." It is the Lefts cycle of government dependence for needs formerly supplied by the private sector which impoverishes us all and stomps on the throat of personal Liberty.