High-Speed Spending


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Nothing more clearly illustrates the utter irresponsibility of Barack Obama than his advocacy of “high-speed rail.” The man is not stupid. He knows how to use words that will sound wonderful to people who do not bother to stop and think.

High-speed rail may be feasible in parts of Europe or Japan, where the population density is much higher than in the United States. But, without enough people packed into a given space, there will never be enough riders to repay the high cost of building and maintaining a high-speed rail system.

Building a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco may sound great to people who don’t give it any serious thought. But we are a more spread-out country than England, France or Japan. The distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is greater than the distance from London to Paris— by more than 100 miles.

In Japan, the distance between Tokyo and Osaka is comparable to the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the population of Osaka alone is larger than the combined populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco— and Tokyo has millions more people than Osaka. That is why it can make sense to have a “bullet train” running between Osaka and Tokyo, but makes no sense to build one between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

However little President Obama knows or cares about economics, he knows a lot about politics— and especially political rhetoric. “High-speed rail” is simply another set of lofty words to justify continued expansion of government spending. So are words like “investment in education” or “investment” in any number of other things, which serves the same political purpose.

Who cares what the realities are behind these nice-sounding words? Obama can leave that to the economists, the statisticians and the historians. His point is to winthe votes of people who know little or nothing about economics, history or statistics. That includes a lot of people with expensive Ivy League degrees.

To talk glibly about spending more money on “high-speed rail” when the national debt has just passed a milestone, by exceeding the total value of our annual output, for the first time in more than half a century, is world-class chutzpa.

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  • Jim_C

    Travelling by train is a real treat. As much as I would LOVE the option of high speed rail in this country, I just don't think it passes a cost/benefit analysis, either. California would seem to make a great testing ground for it, at least, but I have no idea how they would afford it.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      High speed rail makes sense between Los Angeles and Boston IF — IF — the government stays out of every single part of the process except an occasional (rare) instance of Emminent Domain. The problem with most high speed rail in America is that it is exceedingly expensive, and it doesn't GO where YOU want it to go.

      Here's the rub. Bottom Line. People will always satisfy their needs through the least expensive course of action. Typically they resort to their own labour (work,) or someone else's labour (politics.) If high speed rail depended on your OWN labor (or investment) it would go nowhere – and quickly, too. But when when you can spend other people's money with impunity it is a bargain indeed.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      I've travelled by rail across this country many times BEFORE the advent of Amtrak. Since then considerably less. Amtrak is worse by a grand measure, and I will not willingly ride it again. Much of it is due to the deterioration of the culture, but much more of it is due to government subsidy of the "service."

      P.S. I worked for the BNSF and its originating rail companies for decades and am intimately familiar with their operations.

  • tagalog

    What is the draw to certain politicians of high-speed rail? It is a perennial favorite of some prominent politicians. It surely is obvious that railroads as passenger carriers are not popular, viz, Amtrak. So what is the lure of this favorite hobby horse of some of our leaders?

  • Shinkansen

    During business trips last year, I traveled by train in Japan several times, including by high-speed Shinkasen. Japanese are very proud of it and rightly so. It is fun: runs fast, stops within 1 inch in the stations and leaves perhaps 2 seconds late (but no cells phones are allowed on board). However to get from an area close to dowtown Tokyo to a town about 100 miles away, you have to walk to subway, take a subway train to a main station, take Shinkasen to a bigger station outside of Tokyo, take a third train to a smaller station, then a car (or walk) to your destination. It is good for health, but takes 3 – 4 hours, while by car it would be 1 1/2 hours. I found that taking a bus (instead of 3 trains) is much more convenient, cheaper and faster (buses are also only up to 5 seconds late). Only longer distances (several hundred miles) may make sense, but the traffic must be very heavy (like Tokyo – Osaka) to avoid financial losses.
    In USA, high-speed rail does not make any sense: population density too small. Even in big US cities, too few people live close enough to central stations to make rail travel convenient (most business people commute to cities from suburbs).

    • Maria

      socializm is power forever for those who grabs it. Our Pres. Barak Hussein is socialist/neo-communist. He uses the same demagogue and rethoric as commies in the former USSR. We people who escaped horror to live in USSR or any socialistic countries saw him as he is before he was elected. He uses the same tactic as commies in 1917-1920th, so on. He is distroying this country, it's foundation, divide it by society, classes, races, etc. All this crisis was triggered by $800 Bl stimulus. Where is those money? Why unemployment rate is more than 9%?
      Why Fredi Mack and Fanny May anyway in bankrupcy? Where is that money? It is plot of WH Marxists and Democartic Party/leftists/socialists party of America against USA. The worser the better for them. Lenin who was leader of bolshevicks in 1917 wrote that revolution (socialistic) was possible when life would be too bad for citizens. He used war situation to seize power and destroy Russia. Idea of speed rail roads are waste of money and economicaly just stupid. Our lawyer-pres in his element. Mainstream media is helping him to deceive us all.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    Especially when you consider that you can drop the entire country of Japan – all four major islands – into California. One trip per day from LA to Boston and from Boston to LA could possibly attract enough patronage to make the venture profitable. It would have to be an express, with stops only every 500 miles or so. Feeder lines could supply passengers from Billings and Dallas via bus or standard rail service to the four or five intermediate stops.

    By the way, if it is not profitable for private enterprise then it would not be profitable for the taxpayer either. If it is not profitable, why do it?