The Washington Post is somewhat of a bellwether of public opinion on high-speed rail. Back in 2009, when President Obama first proposed to build a high-speed rail network, Post editorial writers were all for it as a way of reducing congestion. Then in 2010, the paper published an op-ed by a National Geographic travel writer who argued that the “benefits of high-speed rail have long been apparent to anyone who has ridden Japan’s Shinkansen trains or France’s TGV.”
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing new rules that would allow it to fund exceedingly wasteful rail transit projects that do nothing to relieve congestion. While the existing rules require transit agencies to demonstrate that proposed new rail lines are at least minimally cost effective, the proposed rules focus instead on such vague criteria as “livability” and “environmental justice.”
If, like me, you’re a Pennsylvanian who wants a smaller federal government, you’ve probably been scratching your head at Rick Santorum’s success in the Republican primaries. An article in today’s Washington Times on the former Pennsylvania senator’s lack of popularity in the Keystone State is instructive.
After catching flack from both fiscal conservatives and the transit lobby, House Speaker John Boehner has postponed consideration of a transportation bill. Fiscal conservatives (including my fellow Cato scholar Michael Tanner) objected to the bill’s deficit spending; transit interests (including Republicans from New York and Chicago), objected to the bill’s lack of dedicated funds to public transit.
The Washington Post did a great job last week comparing spending earmarks by members of Congress with the locations of property they own in their states. Some members are apparently using our tax dollars to expand infrastructure near their homes and businesses, thus gaining a personal benefit from federal spending.
A Washington Post investigation identified dozens of examples of federal policymakers directing federal dollars to projects that benefited their property or an immediate family member. Members of Congress have been enriching themselves at taxpayer expense? In other news, the sun rose this morning.
The American Society of Civil Engineers does a flashy study every year called “America’s Infrastructure Report Card.” The wrench-turners give a grade of “D” to the mainly-government infrastructure they examine. Based on the low grade, they ask for taxpayers to cough up another $2.2 trillion so the engineers can fix the supposed mess.
When I testified to the Joint Economic Committee yesterday, the subject of bridges came up again and again. Numerous people said or implied that our bridges are crumbling and falling down, and that more funding was desperately needed.
I testified to the congressional Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday regarding infrastructure, which means roads, bridges, pipelines, railroads, and other such assets. Here are some of the points I raised:
One reason to shift infrastructure financing to the private sector is that governments and their contractors often give taxpayers the shaft. They say a big project will cost a certain amount, but then the project gets underway and they reveal that—whoops!—the project actually costs much more. No one gets fired, the money has been spent, taxes and debt have been increased, and officials move onto the next boondoggle.