Posts tagged ‘Santa Clause’

What Thomas Friedman Wants for America

When it comes to high speed rail, the Left tends to have a Santa Clause mentality.   They want the rail, but refuse to even discuss its costs vs. benefits, as if it is going to be dropped in place by Santa Clause.

I have actually had pro-high-speed rail writers call me a dinosaur for taking a cost-benefit approach.  After a reasoned article on why our rail system, with its focus on freight, makes more sense than China and Europe's focus on high speed passenger rail, Joel Epstein wrote me that I should get out of the country more, as if I am some backwoods rube that would just swoon if I saw a nifty bullet train.  For the record, my actual experience on a high-speed rail train in Europe confirmed that it was a nice experience (I knew it would be) and that it was a financial mess, as my son and I were the only passengers in my car.  I would be all for HSR if Santa Clause dropped in down from the North Pole, but it costs a lot of real money.

How much money?  Well take the system in China that Friedman and Epstein and many others have begged the US to emulate:

The rail ministry that builds and operates the trains has an incredible 2.1 million employees, more than the number of civilians employed by the entire U.S. government. Moreover, the ministry is in debt to the tune of 2.1 trillion yuan ($326 billion), about 5 percent of the country’s GDP.

Making Fiscal Sense

Kudos to Kevin Drum for his obvious skepticism about California high speed rail.  Too often the left accepts high speed rail projects credulously, despite their backbreaking costs and little proven impacts on energy use or greenhouse gas production.

I have had back and fort over rail projects with supporters for years, and I am always particularly amazed at how supporters treat me like some kind of neanderthal  (e.g. "the debate is over!" and "rail is settled policy.")  I finally figured out the other day how to characterize rail supporters arguments.

They are like kids who might say, "why wouldn't you want Santa Clause to bring you an Xbox for Christmas?"  They treat rail like it is a birthday present, and that I am some sort of schlub for turning down such a shiny new present.  But of course it is not a present, and costs matter.  The problem with rail is not that I don't like riding on trains, the problem is that I don't like draining resources by force from millions of people so that a few thousand middle class commuters can ride on trains to work.