Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One place we could definitely cut spending

Michael Barone points to how much money Obama has spent and on which he still desires to continue spending is high-speed rail.
In negotiations on the debt limit Obama has fenced off several programs from any cuts at all. One is Obamacare, even though majorities in polls continue to favor its repeal.

Another is, astonishingly, the $53 billion he wants to spend on high-speed rail projects.
There is so much evidence that government spending on high-speed rail is a sinkhole waste of money. But, despite his claims of only wanting to support proven programs, Obama continues to think that this is the way to "win the future."
To call high-speed rail a "boondoggle," as does House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, is to engage in considerable understatement.

These projects include $715 million for construction of 100 miles of track between the small towns of Borden and Corcoran in California's Central Valley.

They include a train from Iowa City, Iowa, that will take longer to get to Chicago than already existing bus service and a train from Minneapolis to Duluth, Minn., that will average 69 miles per hour -- about what you could average on the parallel Interstate 35.

Obama has rhapsodized about the pleasure of walking to a train station and taking a high-speed rail trip to another city. But the great majority of Americans don't live within an easy drive of a train station.

He has called high-speed rail an "investment" in cutting-edge technology. But it's hardly cutting edge: Japan debuted its bullet train in 1964 and France inaugurated its TGV in 1981.

As for investment, Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg analyzed results from dozens of rail projects in 20 countries over the last 70 years. He found that 75 percent ended up costing at least 24 percent over projections and 25 percent exceed projections by more than 60 percent.

No wonder the governors of Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida have turned down federal money for rail projects that parallel interstate highways. They realized that their taxpayers would get stuck for inevitable cost overruns and operating deficits.

A high-speed rail line might make sense in the densely populated Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston, and as a Washingtonian who travels frequently to Manhattan I would love a faster train than the current Acela. But these projects make no sense in most of the rest of America.
Of course $53 billion is small ball when we're talking about trillions of debt. However, if we can't cut spending on such a boondoggle, as Paul Ryan rightly calls it, how are we going to make tougher choices? As Barone concludes, the real issue is the size of the government. We've tried using government spending to reduce unemployment and the result has been an abject failure. Spending federal money on chosen favorite ideas of politicians is not the way to build a solid, growing economy. Sadly, Obama and the Democrats have not learned that lesson.