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Category Archives: Reckless Spending

Getting involved


A bit dramatic, but it does make the point, the debt is a huge issue and we need to get involved to do something about it. Freedomworks.com is a great way to get involved in the political process. Their FreedomConnector is a great way to connect up with other conservatives who are active in your area.

 
 

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Does this concern you in the least bit?


I know I go on about balanced budgets and massive deficits, but it is because I think they are a real problem. It seems that neither party wants to address the elephant in the room, with the exception of a few individuals. This article by Jeffrey Anderson on the Weekly Standard site emphasizes the point, Mandatory Spending Exceeds all Federal Reveunes for Fiscal Year 2011

That’s right, the mandatory portion (medicare, social security) of the budget exceeds the revenue that the government will collect in 2011. That means that if we cut all discretionary (defense, interstate highways, homeland security) we would still run a deficit. As the article points out, just 4 years ago the Bush administration projected that this would occur in 2057. So much for accurate projections by the government experts.

We need to get serious about cutting spending and reforming entitlements now. Our representatives in Washington are dithering around talking about $60 billion or $100 billion in cuts which are essentially meaningless in light of the magnitude of the problem. In 2011 there is a $20 billion deficit between revenue and mandatory spending. When you add in the $207 billion interest payments the total is a $227 billions deficit before we spend $1 on discretionary spending and we can’t get agreement on a measly $100 billion in cuts. When you add in the discretionary spending the deficit is over $1.5 trillion. When are our representatives going to get serious about this issue. How long will they kick the can down the road?

Because the amount of money is so large, people lose perspective of the scale of the issue. To give you an idea of the scale, please check out this video from 10000 Pennies

I urge you to contact you Senators and Representatives and insist that they vote against another extension of the continuing resolution. Also, insist that they pursue significant budget cuts across the board.

 

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Budget Freeze, wow that sounds impressive.


OK, his stuff is just so good, I have to share another one of 10000Pennies videos from YouTube.  This one is about the proposed budget freeze President Obama mentioned in his SOTU speech.

Billions and Trillions are such big numbers, people have no idea of the scale.  These visualizations help bring perspective and make it easy to spot rhetorical BS when you hear it.  The proposed spending freeze is so trivial as to be meaningless.  We need across the board cuts to get out of the mess we are in.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Reckless Spending

 

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Do we really want high speed rail?


2/11/11 – Update: An interesting article from National Review on the cost of High Speed Rail, High Speed Funding in President’s Budget Means More Waste of Taxpayers Dollars.  Kathryn Nix makes many of the  same points as I do here, but provide insight into the total cost of this ‘program’ a whooping $600 billion over 20 years (not including subsidies ones the lines are built).

During President Obama’s SOTU speech, he touted investment (read spending/subsidies) in a high speed rail system as a way to jump start our economy and move our country forward in order to be competitive on the world stage.  My immediate reaction was that this is not a good time to spend billions of dollars on a new program.  I would prefer that we focus on cutting spending, reducing the deficit and balancing the budget.  Once the economy is on track and our finances are under control,  I still wondered if this would be a good investment.

A bit of research helped shed some light on this question, feel free to do your own if you don’t agree with my conclusions.  An article written by Ronald Utt, Ph. D. was very helpful, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/03/America-s-Coming-High-Speed-Rail-Financial-Disaster.  Dr. Utt provides great detail on the cost and sucess of high speed rail systems in other countries that are held up as examples for the United States to follow.

The geography of the United States is significantly different from other countries that have implemented high speed rail systems.  It is far more costly to connect our major population hubs than it is in say France or Japan.  It is possible that in limited areas, such as the Northeast, high speed rail may make economic sense.  But attempting to connect all of our major population center is not only cost prohibitive, but not economically sustainable.

The attached table shows the km of high speed rail lines currently in place.  The total amount of high speed rail lines for all countries, excluding China, is 9,430 km.  A single line from Los Angeles to New York would require 4,490 km of track.  Approximately half the number of miles for all countries combined just to connect a small percentage of our entire population.  Our geography just doesn’t fit the model for a cost effective rail system of travel. And you might ask why I did not include China in the comparison. China does not have a system of roads comparable to our interstate system, so they need rail to build out their basic transportation system. Also, a large majority of Chinese citizens do not have nor can the afford automobiles, so rail it the logical choice of transportation for their country.

Country↓ In operation (km)[30]↓ Under construction (km)[31]↓ Total Country (km)↓
Spain 1983[34] 1761 3744
Japan 1986[35] 510 2496
France 1897 209 2106
Germany 1032 378 1410
Italy 923 0 923
Turkey 457[36] 308 745
South Korea 330 82 412
Taiwan 345 0 345
Belgium 209 0 209
The Netherlands 120 0 120
United Kingdom 113 0 113
Switzerland 35 72 107

If you build it they will come, right?  If we have an extensive high speed rail system, people will forgo using their cars or flying in favor of travel by train, correct?  Since we like to use European countries as an example for how we should operate in the United States, let’s look at the percentage of travel associated with rail travel there.  In a study done by the Amtrak inspector general, six European countries (UK, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Austria)  spend over $42 billion per year in railroad subsidies and yet the usage was 7.9 % of all surface transportation (which excludes boat and air).  Of course the $42 billion does not include the cost of building the systems, only the yearly shortfall between revenue and operating expenses, sounds like a great deal!  The point, even with the great system they have in Europe, when people travel they prefer cars  not trains.  If European countries which cannot get their usage above 8%, it seems to me that it is a fallacy to think that we will do better in the US, particularly with our love affair for the automobile and desire for independence.  Also, it is clear that even in Europe that high speed rail is a losing economic proposition. In the same time-frame as the Amtrak study, the United States spent roughly $55 billion for all forms of transportation, most of which was covered by user fees.  Clearly rail travel in general and high speed rail in particular are not an economically feasible alternative.

So unless I’m really missing something, why would the our government propose such an extensive high speed rail system. I believe that the it is one of the basic responsibilities of the federal government to provider for roads and transportation, so I am not opposed to this idea on constitutional or free market grounds.  I’m just curious about the “motivation” behind this system.  I think there are two clear reasons; appeasing the climate change proponents and providing graft to labor unions.

The climate change proponents will cheer this proposal because they believe that it will reduce carbon emissions.  The theory is that people will stop driving cars and use high speed rail, which is admittedly a far cleaner technology.  Of course,  I don’t think this will happen, for the reasons discussed above.  The second reason is far more likely the prime motivator.  The jobs created by building this system will most certainly go to Organized Labor, further payoff for the unions support of Democrats and President Obama.  Once the system is up and running, labor unions will also run the system.  So it seems that once again, it is not about moving the country forward, but instead, consolidating power and adding voters to the base.

I can’t help being so cynical.  In all of the reading I did for researching this project, the proponents of a high speed rail system did not offer any facts or financial analysis, only rhetoric and marketing speak. I would take this effort more seriously and less cynically if I were presented with a real cost and revenue model. The taxpayers deserve nothing less before we embark on this journey.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Reckless Spending

 

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