Wisconsin has become a battleground over the Obama administration’s plan to create a national system of high-speed rail. Of the $8 billion in HSR grants awarded to the states in the stimulus bill, $810 million of it went toward a high-speed route between Milwaukee and Madison.
A joint report issued by Republicans on the Senate Finance and House Oversight and Government Reform committees finds that Amtrak’s management interfered with investigations by its inspector general and effectively forced his resignation in 2009.
In a speech to union supporters in Wisconsin, President Obama announced his intention to take the country $50 billion deeper into debt in order to finance more public infrastructure projects. The president defended his abysmal economic record by claiming that he has had to take on “powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for too long.”
A couple of weeks ago, David Boaz discussed the Old Testament story in which the people of Israel ask Samuel for a king to rule over them. God’s instructions to Samuel can be summed up as “tell them to be careful of what you wish for.” David brought up the passage in the context of civil liberties, but the story’s lesson also applies to economic liberties.
The president’s stimulus package contained an $8 billion downpayment on a national system of high-speed rail. The money came with no state matching requirements, which generated state applications totaling $102 billion. When Congress added a 20 percent state matching requirement to an additional $2.3 billion for high-speed rails grants in this year’s budget, state applications only totaled $8.5 billion.
A common theme with federal programs that fund state and local activities is that the distribution formulas are highly complex and politically-driven. The result is that policymakers at the federal and state level are constantly jockeying for more money, while the general public remains largely ignorant as to where the money comes from and how it’s spent.
Amtrak has announced that it will spend $300 million on 130 new rail cars, including sleeper and dining cars, for its long-distance trains. The government company’s announcement came with the obligatory statement that the purchase will create 575 jobs. That’s more than $500,000 per job.
Greece’s fiscal meltdown could be a sign of things to come in the U.S. if we don’t get our own fiscal house in order. The images of Greek unions rioting against desperately needed government reforms bring to mind our own problems with public sector unions.
A report from the Department of Transportation’s inspector general expresses more concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to implement its Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen is a $40 billion overhaul of the nation’s air traffic control system that would replace old-fashioned radar technology with modern satellite-based GPS navigation.