Going off the rails on a crazy train

“Yes We Can” to “I Think I Can.”

Does anyone else find the high-speed rail idea as silly as I do?

We’re talking HUGE upfront costs for something that Americans will be historically disinclined to use, all on the taxpayers’ dime, during a recession. I mean, it’s not like unemployment is back up to ten percent, or anything. And it’s not like Obama’s deficit commission recommended we reign in spending, or anything. And it’s not like we have a society that is forever innovating in ways that make transportation less and less of a valuable business resource (to the Cloud!).

Are we ever going to realize that the way to improve things is through real reform of the way our government operates? No, let’s just spend $53 billion on yet another government program to distract us from the real problems we’re facing.

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2 thoughts on “Going off the rails on a crazy train

  1. “during a recession.”
    Actually, if there is any time to do projects like this, it’s during a recession– because it creates at least certain amount of jobs, which means that a certain amount more of working-to-middle class people have money in their pockets… and because people with less money tend to spend it much quicker than rich folks (cough cough that’s why tax cuts are inferior cough cough), you get an accelerated amount of economic activity.
    Just like you said “you can’t raise taxes in a recession!!”, the same thing goes for cutting spending; the time for the government to make significant austerity measures is once the economy has recovered to the point that it can HANDLE whatever tax hikes/spending cuts you want to introduce… which we’d both agree need to be taken at *some* point for the sake of the debt.

    also: on the train issue, Americans are definitely not ‘historically disinclined’– rail travel was enormous before the advent of the interstate highway system– which, itself, was a massive government program, keep in mind! (‘this highway system is a load of nonsense, Americans are historically disinclined towards this type of thing’)

    The only big problem with the rail system is that its success may depend strongly on the public transportation systems of connected cities– the great thing about car travel is that it’s all self-contained. If I drive my car from here to San Jose, California, the car doesn’t disappear once I arrive… I can use it as transportation while I’m in town, as well. That’s not the case with a rail system. If I take the train to San Jose, once I get there I have no means of getting myself around the city, unless the city already has a good local transportation system. And what if the place I want to go is a smaller town? What’s the use taking the train for the bulk of a 2000-mile trip if I have no means to make the final 40? I guess other countries made it work, so I guess I’d just have to see how they handled it.

    • The problem with your “cut taxes and spending when the economy is doing well” argument is that the government NEVER cuts spending or taxes when the economy is doing well. Regardless of the economic climate, they use it to justify more taxes and more spending. Government spending is a panacea, and the “investment” decisions are always more effective than the decisions made by the private sector, because they’re made by the geniuses in Washington. And we know they’re geniuses, because we ELECTED them!

      “If it moves, tax it. If it’s still moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.”

      Rail travel PREDATED the automobile. This isn’t some radical new innovation, it’s just a faster train. America is a car culture, and we aren’t going to change back just because Obama builds a railway. You make a good point about self-contained travel, but the argument that most of those in support are making is that this will be a huge economic boon because it connects BIG CITIES. While some might find use for the rail system in visiting smaller towns, is that alone really a lucrative enough benefit to justify the $53 billion (which you KNOW is a conservative estimate, these things always end up costing more, and doesn’t include the cost of actually maintaining the railway) that would be spent on the project?

      Ultimately this is a program that is meant to be a distraction. Look, trains! Look, (largely temporary) jobs! Don’t look at the 10% unemployment rate behind the curtain! This will do no more help to save the economy than Cash for Clunkers did.

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