Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Wasteful Spending

Is what I'm sure the GOP and Tea Party will call the Administration's plan for High Speed Rail.*

Do not be fooled. This is the kind of investment in infrastructure our nation has needed for decades. I'm not even talking about the kind of good, paying jobs the building of this infrastructure will create, but the strategic and economic benefits we will receive once it is up and running.

It is also pretty bold talk for folks to call these improvements wasteful considering how less profitable the airline industry would be without government subsidies.

Without those subsidies, airlines would have to charge you the real cost of flying, in order to turn a profit. At that point, flying would return to being the luxury or essential business item it really ought to be.

Unfortunately, with our government needing to cut back on those massive subsidies, American travelers will get caught between the high, non-artificial cost of airline travel and the high and rising price of gasoline. (The rising cost of gasoline that, coincidentally, continues to increase the airlines' need for subsidization.) That will be bad for the economy as a whole as it will decrease our economic mobility.

How many billions in subsidies does this nation pour into the airline industry at the local, state and federal levels? All to support the infrastructure of Americans to traverse great distances more efficiently than by car. Add to that the unnecessary disadvantages that the government has placed on passenger rail service, and the market is rigged. Airlines "won" not because of the "invisible hand," but by the underhanded scheme.

Let me put it to you this way, the only reason people still fly commercial is because they have no options for long or medium distance travel. The only reason there are no options is because the government has interfered in the market on the side of the airlines. At this point, we have to choose between A) continuing to increase the subsidy for airline travel to make it economical for travelers or B) start investing in alternatives, so we can reduce the costs of those subsidies over time.

Remove those artificial disadvantages. Turn off the subsidy spigot for the airlines. Build ourselves an additional transportation infrastructure and give people the option to decide based on convenience and price. Watch what happens.

(HT: Alli)

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8 comments:

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

It is also pretty bold talk for folks to call any federal spending that is railroad-related an "improvement" given that federal government pretty much single-handedly killed passenger rail in the 20th Century starting with their nationalization of the rails during World War I and ending with one of the major poster-boys for government incompetence: Amtrak. Our federal government's handling of the railroads is one of the hallmark conservative case studies when arguing why it's a bad idea to nationalize anything. But like an alcoholic three drinks into their next bender, the federal government has convinced itself that this time it will be different.

Suppose this were something that could turn a good return on investment (which to be clear I don't think should be a prerequisite for government spending). If this were some private firm asking for investors to pitch in towards the $54 billion and these investors saw that firm's track record, their response would be "Oh HELL no!"

Could this venture possibly end up improving our infrastructure? Of course. Will it? Oh hell no.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Yes, Amtrak is the big poster boy for government incompetence. That's been the case as long as I can remember, even under Presidential administrations and Congresses controlled by "conservatives."

That's just like my macro problem with the "school choice" and disaster response disucssions. All have been trotted out as part of the self-fulfilling prophecy of hack "conservatism."

1. Say "government is the problem."
2. Win election to fix government.
3. Keep government the problem.
4. Keey saying "govenrment is the problem" as if you can't do anything about it.
4. Keep getting elected.

If these kinds of "conservatives" actually made government work like it can, they'd lose a signature campaign issue that requires no work on their part.

Rail will be a fine infrastructure improvement as soon as the people who want it to fail stop running the show.

That, or when gasoline prices hit $7 a gallon.

Dante said...

"If these kinds of "conservatives" actually made government work like it can, they'd lose a signature campaign issue that requires no work on their part."

And likewise, if liberals would take the opportunity to even attempt to restore our faith in government-run programs instead of trotting out monstrous bureaucracy after bureaucracy they could take away a signature conservative campaign issue. But they won't ever do it because they're far more concerned with using the political power government agencies give them like the power to bestow jobs on political allies and the power to alter rules of pay, work conditions, etc of government workers in exchange for votes to ever let that happen.

Rail will be a fine infrastructure improvement as soon as the people who want it to fail and as soon as the people who are willing to sacrifice success at the alter of political power stop running the show. I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Oh, because "conservatives" aren't interested in political power, appointing cronies to run important agencies, and protecting specific constituencies?

We'll start the bidding at Michael "HeckuvaJob" Brown and Donald "ArmyYouHave" Rumsfeld.

Now, I've got a whole laundry list of critiques for so called "liberals" in government who either screw up the effectiveness of government programs or aren't willing or able to explain what goverment programs are working. Though those individuals aren't usually the ones calling themselves "liberals" in the first place.

The abosolute demonization of government programs on the parts of some "conservatives" doesn't help in regards to the latter.

So you'll have to pardon me for prioritizing my critiques against the individuals who complain about government being ineffective while they themselves are in charge of it.

Hell, the current Louisiana governor loves to trot out the Federal government's response to Katrina and the flood as an example of how government doesn't work. Which is a kind of cognitive dissonance I'm talking about here.

Dante said...

"Oh, because "conservatives" aren't interested in political power, appointing cronies to run important agencies, and protecting specific constituencies?"

They certainly are, but they'r not the ones trying to make the argument that government can do things more efficiently. You'll likewise have to forgive me for prioritizing my critiques against the people who are actively seeking new ways to use my hard-earned cash to buy their votes.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

They certainly are, but they'r not the ones trying to make the argument that government can do things more efficiently.

They're not? Then what is all this talk about "smaller government" and "running government like a business" that we hear about all the time?

Strange, then, that they never seem able to deliver on those promises...

Dante said...

"They're not? Then what is all this talk about "smaller government" and "running government like a business" that we hear about all the time?"

Most of what they really mean is turning government functions over to businesses. Of course, they are buddies with those businesses. But my point isn't to drive a liberal/conservative wedge here. It's to point out that I'm not supporting another government program until they fix the broken ones already under their control. They've done it before. The transformation of the Post Office Department to the USPS was a massive upgrade in structure vs. cost. But once every 40 years isn't good enough. Hell, just fix Amtrak and I'll buy into a new rail program.