In the wake of the terrible train crash near Philadelphia, people are asking whether Amtrak budget cuts could have been a contributing factor. The short answer is that federal rail spending has not been cut. The longer answer is that rail spending has been greatly misallocated by Congress. Rather than being spent on maintenance along heavily used corridors (particularly in the Northeast), the federal rail budget has been frittered away on uneconomical rural routes and high-speed rail schemes.
The federal government operates the air traffic control (ATC) system as an old-fashioned bureaucracy, even though ATC is a high-tech business. It’s as if the government took over Apple Computer and tried to design breakthrough products. The government would surely screw it up, which is the situation today with ATC run by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Today is Tax Day. Federal tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service with a postmark before midnight. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the federal government will collect $3.2 trillion in revenue this year.
Revenue comes from five main sources:
Tomorrow at CPAC, I will discuss some advantages of infrastructure privatization. Perhaps the largest advantage is innovation. Unlike government bureaucracies, private firms in a competitive environment are eager to maximize the net returns of projects, so they find new ways to reduce costs and improve quality.
President Obama proposed an expansive spending plan for highways, transit, and other infrastructure in his 2016 budget.
Here are some of the problems with the president’s approach:
President Obama’s budget would raise taxes to fund a $478 billion infrastructure spending plan for highways, transit, and other items. The budget (on page 26) cites an International Monetary Fund study that “highlights the importance of choosing high-efficiency infrastructure projects based on rigorous benefit-cost analysis.”
Republicans say they favor cutting regulations to spur growth and create jobs. And they generally favor expanding international trade. They can attain those goals by reforming labor union laws.
America’s West Coast seaports are getting hammered by aggressive unionism. The damage spreads out across the economy during labor disputes, affecting billions of dollars worth of trade. It’s an economically absurd situation, and it’s hugely unfair to the millions of workers whose jobs depend on trade. It should not be happening in America in the 21th century.
I love Adam Smith. He didn’t get everything right, but he got the big things right. Oftentimes, he really nailed it.
Today, I woke up early and my newspaper had not arrived yet. So I cracked open The Wealth of Nations on the infrastructure section, Book V, Part III.
Another day, another news article supportive of raising the federal gas tax. This time it’s theWall Street Journal. The article notes that there is strong public opposition to raising gas taxes, but then proceeds to give us the arguments in favor of it, but none against.
In an article about federal highway legislation yesterday, the Washington Post illustrated the art of advocacy journalism cloaked as news reporting. The article explored different options for raising federal taxes $100 billion to fund state highways.