Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently said that “America is one big pothole.” President Obama, members of Congress, and pundits often claim that our infrastructure is “crumbling.” The Senate Budget Committee’s new spending plan, for example, uses that word no fewer than ten times in calling for a $100 billion infrastructure package. And in a report released yesterday, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation a grade of D+ on its infrastructure.
Intercity passenger trains are experiencing a “renaissance” with Amtrak ridership growing “faster than other major travel modes,” says a new report from the Brookings Institution. Indeed, the report continues, Amtrak’s short-distance trains (generally, routes of around 200 to 600 miles) have, on average, a “positive operating balance,” so more such short-distance routes should be added.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out an array of new spending proposals, including a $50 billion plan for highways, bridges and other projects. He wants to attract “private capital” for the plan, but the problem is that federal planners would remain in control of the allocations.
The federal government’s budget deficits are pushing the nation toward a fiscal meltdown, yet our leaders can’t seem to curb their zeal for infrastructure spending. President Obama has been pushing a $50 billion package for infrastructure and will likely include a similar plan in his upcoming budget. For their part, most Republicans eagerly pursue all the spending they can get for road, rail, airport, and dam projects in their districts.
When liberals make reference to U.S. economic history, they typically: 1) downplay the role of entrepreneurs, 2) suggest that bold government action has driven growth, and 3) fail to mention the scandals and screw-ups caused by federal interventions.
President’s Obama’s inaugural address reflected some of those mistakes:
Cato has released a new study on infrastructure spending. The study discusses how federal involvement in infrastructure has many serious disadvantages, and few, if any, advantages. It examines the worldwide trend toward privatization and PPPs for highways, bridges, airports, and much else.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) spends $50 million more than its peers on employee benefits, says KPMG in an audit of the agency. Reducing benefits to national average levels (easier said than done) and contracting out some services such as cleaning would allow MARTA to erase a $33 million deficit in its annual budget.
Watching one of the first showings of Part II of Atlas Shrugged was a surrealistic experience for me after testifying earlier in the day (September 20) to the House Transportation Committee about Amtrak. In the movie, government officials piously argue that for the “greater good” they need to provide “guidance” to the nation’s capitalists—and the more guidance they give, the more capitalism fails, which naturally justifies even more guidance.