Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trains; Budget Boondoggle…

We are racing out of control heading straight down the tracks toward bankruptcy and we are talking about $50 billion in funding for high speed rail? What has happened to spending cuts? The only conversation about high speed rail we should be engaged in is the fact that Amtrak runs at a $2 billion yearly deficit that should be cut. The tax payers should not be subsidizing Joe Biden’s 7000 roundtrips from Delaware to DC.

Michael Medved recently interviewed a rail expert about the economics of trains, and in particular high speed rail. The reality is the United States infrastructure is not conducive to trains being economically viable. Trains rarely pay for themselves. That is evident by the lack of private sector companies willing to invest in rail without a commitment from government to pay for it.

The republican budget committee has just announced a meager $ 32 Billion dollar cut in the federal budget which needs to be $1.4 trillion. The deficit is $1.4 trillion and that is what the goal should be. Throwing money at high speed rail is the same as flushing it down the federal toilet; high “efficiency” toilet that is! I can’t understand the move toward a system of transportation that will never be able to sustain itself.

The green folks and Prius crowd have a love affair with the train and often site Europe as the example. Even in Europe the train systems run at a deficit with the exception of a few specific lines. If the Europeans can’t even sustain rail with a much more condensed infrastructure what makes these people think that rail will work here? And that doesn’t even take into account the argument that will be made for subsidies for car companies as people abandon their automobiles. Even if that pipe dream was to come true.

Giving up the automobile will never happen, and it is unrealistic to expect Americans to give up the convenience and luxury no matter what the price of gas is. If gas prices get too high the American voter will demand increased drilling here in the states. They will never abandon the car when oil is so readily available and the answer is simply to increase our political will to drill. That is a matter of an election cycle or two.

Trains are only viable for freight. If the federal budget contains more than $1 in 2011 it will be $1 too much. Can we please get off the train track and start addressing the third rail issues like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense; please?

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