Biden: Hey, let’s spend $53 billion on high-speed rail

posted at 4:13 pm on February 8, 2011 by Allahpundit

Why not? The federal budget is now like a teetering Jenga tower that stretches into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. There’s no question that it’s going to topple pretty soon, so in the meantime, why not have fun and see how many more pieces we can stick on there before it does?

Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced an ambitious $53 billion program to build new high-speed rail networks and make existing ones faster over the next six years.

Biden, who estimated he has ridden Amtrak between Washington and his home in Wilmington, Delaware, some 7,900 times, made a strong pitch for rail transportation to enable the United States to compete and lead internationally.

“This is about seizing the future,” he said, making the announcement at Philadelphia’s busy 30th Street station with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Japan and China are already building high-speed rail, and “there’s no reason, none,” that the United States cannot do the same, Biden said.

Actually, there are reasons we can’t do the same. See this recent Michael Barone column for a primer. Our version of “high-speed” rail won’t be nearly as high-speed as theirs, making this option uncompetitive with air travel over even moderately long distances, and the property-rights culture in those countries isn’t as strong as it is here, which means all sorts of tangles for the feds in finding land to lay dedicated track. There’s also the teensy matter of our crippling leviathan deficits, which explains why GOP transportation honchos John Mica and Bill Shuster are already giving Biden the thumbs down on today’s announcement. Interestingly, as recently as a week ago, both men sounded bullish on HSR. I wonder which member of the GOP leadership was tasked with having a little chat with them about spending.

Here’s Reason TV from last March with a quick-and-painless guide to America’s latest boondoggle in the name of Progress. Note well the bit about Amtrak subsidies for a sneak preview of the sinkhole that high-speed rail will become. Serious question: Is there any federal spending initiative that Democrats won’t defend on grounds that it’ll either create jobs or (giggle) end up turning a profit “eventually”? Theoretically, there has to come a point where the budget grows so bloated that even leftists agree that pursuing risky new projects is imprudent for the time being, until we retrench fiscally and reprioritize. And yet, evidently, we haven’t yet reached that point. Where is that point, exactly?


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