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2010 Election &Fiscal Policy Richard Falknor on 08 Jul 2009 07:42 pm

Taxpayers Would Pay Bundles for Cantor’s High-Speed Rail

In his post here yesterday subtitled “Eric Cantor Picks Up White House Talking Points” RedState blogger Brian Faughnan puts his finger on another symptom of House Republican Whip Cantor’s fiscal confusion:

“For conservatives, the time is right to tell the American people the truth: the porkulus was always a bad idea. It cannot help economic growth. It should be repealed. And if you want to promote growth and hiring, reduce the tax and regulatory burdens that deter job creation.

Congressman Eric Cantor – hailed by many as one of the party’s rising stars – almost seems to get it. But when it comes right down to it, he can’t even state clear opposition to the porkulus:Either the bill is bad, or it is not. How can Cantor credibly argue against it when he acknowledges there are parts he supports?
. . . . .
Is this really so complex?

Either the bill is bad, or it is not. How can Cantor credibly argue against it when he acknowledges there are parts he supports? And even more to the point: why is he endorsing President Obama’s argument? President Obama says the porkulus was justified because it will eventually generate needed jobs; Cantor supports the rail component because it will eventually generate needed jobs.”

High-speed rail may be wonderful for building contractors and unions, but it is likely to make the same kind of fiscal nonsense as the great Dulles rail raid on the U.S. Treasury.  Heritage’s Ron Utt wrote last year about the now-approved “Dulles rail extension project, which would ultimately add 23 miles of new rail line to link downtown Washington with the Dulles airport in distant Loudoun County” – –

“The capital cost per new rider attracted to transit from a car (daily rider annualized) exceeds $15,000. That is enough to lease each new transit rider two BMW 328i convertibles for life and still return a few thousand dollars to the taxpayer. By this measure, the Dulles extension would be one of the most expensive new transit projects ever conceived.”

The Taxpayer Money Actually Needed for High-Speed Rail?

Here is David Freddoso in his April 20, 2009 National Review article “Obama’s Promises For High Speed Trains Would Cost A Lot More Than He Is Allocating” —

“President Obama wants to offer Americans such an option, and to that end he has promised an $8-billion federal investment in high-speed rail, plus $5 billion more over the next five years. That’s just $13 billion in all, and for that, Obama promises to start building ten different rail corridors, each between 100 and 600 miles long.”

In the same article, Ron Utt declared:

“In the real world of high-speed rail, Utt said, $13 billion gets you ‘almost nothing . . . You would build more sidings and a couple of extra double tracks here and there, and reduce the time of some of the trips.'”

 Costs and Benefits?

Cato’s Randall O’Toole asked here last month in his “High Speed Spending” – –

“Would you pay $1,000 so that someone – probably not you – can ride high-speed trains 58 miles a year? That’s what the Obama Administration’s high-speed rail plan is going to cost every federal income taxpayer in the country.

One thousand dollars per taxpayer is only the beginning. Count on adding $400 for cost overruns. Taxpayers will also have to cover operating losses: Amtrak loses $28 to $84 per passenger in most of its short-distance corridors. In 2001, it lost the most – $84 per passenger in the state-subsidized Raleigh-Charlotte corridor.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“Who will ride these trains? We can get an idea by comparing fares between New York and Washington, DC.

As of this writing, $99 will get you from Washington to New York in two hours and fifty minutes on Amtrak’s high-speed train, while $49 pays for a moderate-speed train ride that takes three hours and fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, relatively unsubsidized and energy-efficient buses cost $20 for a four-hour-and-fifteen-minute trip with leather seats and free Wi-Fi. Airfares start at $119 for a one-hour flight.

Few people who pay their own way will spend an extra $79 to save an hour and twenty-five minutes of their time. But anyone who values their time that highly would be willing to pay an extra $20 to save an hour by taking the plane. The train’s only advantage is for people who are going from downtown to downtown.

Who works downtown? Bankers, lawyers, government officials, and other high-income people who hardly need subsidized transportation. Not only will you pay $1,000 for someone else to ride the train; that someone probably earns more than you.(Underscoring Forum’s.)

The bottom line:  why is the House Republican Whip elected from Virginia and already sounding uncertain trumpets here and here — now doing the same about president Obama’s so-called stimulus packages by fantasizing about a giant slice of pork that, providentially, is unlikely ever to materialize?

Readers, if not the Whip, will understand that the vast amount of public money necessary to create Mr. Cantor’s “185,000 jobs” through high-speed rail in Virginia would be far better spent by taxpayers who could invest what is their own money in genuinely productive enterprises.

Here is an ancient but pertinent American maxim:  If you want oats, it’s best to buy them direct from the farmer, not after they have been through the horse. After they have been through the horse, they are no longer called oats.

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