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  • High Speed Funding in President’s Budget Means More Waste of Taxpayer Dollars

    Elected officials in Washington finally seem to get it that something must be done to reduce federal spending. Last week, House Republicans unveiled a plan to cut $74 billion from President Obama’s budget request for this year, and members of the Republican Study Committee have proposed an even more ambitious plan to cut $2.5 trillion over the next decade. Members of both parties in the Senate are eyeing plans for long-term deficit reduction.

    Even President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, confessed that “we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.” The big question left is whether the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget, which he will release next week, will embody the fiscally responsible choices he admits we need.

    So far, it doesn’t look like it. Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled the President’s plan to invest an additional $53 billion in high-speed rail over the next six years. The stimulus already provided $8 billion in funding, followed by $2.5 billion added by Secretary LaHood. According to The Washington Post, the total price tag of the scheme would weigh in at $600 billion over 20 years.

    The President’s obstinate commitment to high-speed rail reflects a complete and utter neglect to take deficit reduction seriously. Heritage’s Ronald Utt writes that a high-speed rail program would create “perpetual massive government subsidies and larger budget deficits” and “additional burdens imposed on hard-pressed state governments, which will be required to match the perpetual federal subsidies to build the system.”

    Funding has already been rejected by new governors in Wisconsin and Ohio, who campaigned against the costly projects, which would initially receive partial funding from Washington but would ultimately place a heavy burden on both federal and state taxpayers. Said Florida Governor Rick Scott:

    “Over the last few years, Florida accepted one time hand-outs from the federal government. Those temporary resources allowed state and local governments to spend beyond their means. … There was never any reason to think that Florida taxpayers could afford to continue that higher level of spending once the federal hand-outs were gone.”

    Despite its cost, high-speed rail will be ineffective at achieving its goals, if Europe’s experiences are any indicator. High-speed rail is expected to reduce auto and air travel, but in Europe, the trend is actually the opposite: Despite huge government subsidies, travelers are opting more and more to take non-subsidized and less expensive forms of travel.

    Per capita spending on rail alone in six European countries was comparable to the United States’ entire transportation budget, yet, says Utt, “these countries received a poor return on their money given that more than 90 percent of passengers in these countries chose other travel modes—mostly auto—despite the subsidies.” Moreover, Utt cites the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General’s finding that reducing travel time between major East Coast cities by 30 minutes would cost $14 billion but only reduce auto transportation by less than 1 percent.

    Experiences around the globe show that high-speed rail is unsustainable and requires large and perpetual government subsidies. The gains of high-speed rail would be minimal, affecting only a small portion of the population. The United States simply cannot afford such a project right now. If President Obama is serious about investing in America’s future, he should focus on cutting existing programs that are unaffordable and inefficient rather than adding another to their ranks.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to High Speed Funding in President’s Budget Means More Waste of Taxpayer Dollars

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Spending $8.3 Billion a year on High speed rail may seem like a drop in the budget, but the federal DOT has become the third federal agency that broke the $100 billion mark in federal spending. I complain about the DoD wasteful building projects, but the DOT constructed two identical buildings – also of the top architectural quality. They went to the extent in putting in an exterior museum of transportation related items. Nice, sure! But we are being nickeled and dimed by the feds in their pursuit of making their personal and work lives rich and luxurious – beyond what is reasonable and necessarily frugal.

      In 2009 and last year’s Federal DOT spending jumped up to $107 billion from $84 billion in 2008. Before that, transportation hovered around $70-75 billion. The federal DOT is a highly redundant department as every state has a DOT and all design codes are developed by AASHTO – and other private design community organizations.

      The Federal DOT has become a jobs program office. They provide jobs at the price of 150,000 to several hundreds of thousands of dollars per job. Not only should we eliminate these high speed rail projects – which we do not need – but we should also significantly reduce the department to minimal and absolutely required regulatory bodies in air, rail and national highway concerns.

    2. Robt Hess on the fro says:

      LETMYPEOPLEGO!

    3. Robt Hess on the fro says:

      SORRY CAPS = OLD EYES

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    5. West Texan says:

      The only legitimate transportation infrastructure paid for by federal tax revenues should by design be ready to serve a national defense purpose. Interstate highways and airports are examples. High speed rail? Not unless it can effectively be used to transport troops and supplies should the need arise. This not being the case, such mass transit rail system is states' business. And as you said, several governors involved scrapped the idea.

    6. Dee Glover Virginia. says:

      we really have no use for such a train our people and our Country doesnt need it..Obama just wants ways to destroy our country and i hope and pray the republicans stops his spending…

    7. Bobbie says:

      This is what GOVERNMENT WANTS not what the people want. Temporary make-work at an unaffordable cost. Where are the doors of opportunity that were once available where the people didn't need the hand of government? Why did the government tax the jobs we had, out of business, or force the businesses to relocate out of the country? Why do they waste so much time to come up with this impractical, out of budget trap? Why are they so anxious for mass transportation when mass is the target of terrorists?

    8. Lloyd Scallan (New O says:

      "If Obama is serious about investing in America". Is that a joke? Can the author not recognize that when Obama uses the word "invest" he doesn't mean helping America. He means forcing us to pay higher taxes to support the welfare system

      which translates into "spreading the wealth". It's just more of the same deception. Obama must fool the people while he works to destroy this nation's economical system. Spending billions of dollars on a rail system that no one will use will add to the debt we can never repay but allows him to use another favorate word "sacifice". People had better wake up and understand Obama has absolutely no intentions of doing anything that will help America prosper.

    9. Tom Sullivan in FL says:

      We need more specifics to appreciate the gigantic waste of "high speed rail".

      1. Speeds are lower than auto travel average speed, for all but very long trips, especially considering that you need an auto at both ends of the trip, to get to and from the train station.

      2. Costs for subsidies are $50 to $100+ per ticket, when you consider the massive capital costs. Such public investments should require assigning 8% per year capital cost to the multibillion dollar initial investments.

      3. Transportation projects (all public capital projects) must be evaluated on a cost-benefit basis. Passenger rail should not be considered a priveleged category. Transportation projects for road and rail should be compared to each other. Compared to roads, passenger rail projects are preposterously bad investments.

      4. Supposed CO2 reduction benefits are trivial or even non-existant, and rest on the delusion of global warming. The underlying premise is false.

      5. Actual ridership numbers are the size of a rounding error, compared to the massive traffic volumes of roads.

      6. Passenger rail makes no financial sense except in the highest density cities.

      Passenger rail is just another massively wasteful big government boondoggle.

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    11. Edward MacIsaac, San says:

      New Definitions…

      According to Joe Biden a “high speed rail system”,

      Is anything over 30 miles per hour.

    12. Bill, Charleston WV says:

      Anyone notice that the high speed rail in Europe doesn't work when it gets cold and snowy? That never happens here in the US; today it is snowing even in Alabama and Mississippi. This is another spending program for the unions.

    13. EON says:

      If the stimulus money had been used on worthwhile projects like water and sewer updates and bridge repair and maintenance we would have produced jobs that would have lasted for years. Passenger trains are uneconomical. Freight lines on the other hand spur the economy. That is why we have more miles of rail than the next 4 countries. Mass transit is also a security risk creating a target for extremists.

    14. Michael Silvers, Mic says:

      I can sum it all up in two words. AMTRAK. OK well, I was counting words the way the government counts money.

      Amtrak is still a burden on us. Why does the president think a high speed rail system in the south would be any different.

    15. Laura says:

      We need to scrape the plans for the light rail, we don't need or want.

      And try to balance the buget instead. Duh!!!!!

    16. Larry, Detroit says:

      We already provide massive subsidies to using automobiles, by keeping the cost of gas cheap, and spending billions on roads each year, plus the road aspect of police protection, health care and the cost of crashes, and the cost to the environment. How much of our military budget is invested to keep gas cheap? Trains are more sustainable than cars and roads.

      You seem to be saying, lets invest in Al-Qaeda, since they get a part of the money that we send to the Middle East to purchase our cheap gas.

    17. Phil, Texas says:

      Last I heard, the government dumps billions of dollars a year into the highway system. The interstate was a socialist scheme inspired by Nazi autobahns and rammed down the throats of Americans by Eisenhower's Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. When was the last time you heard of a highway making any profit? Let the people who use the interstate pay for it themselves. Privatize the roads!!

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