US President Barack Obama has announced his “vision for high-speed rail” in the country, which would create jobs, ease congestion and save energy. He said the US could not afford not to make the investment in 10 routes.
Let’s think about that.
Save energy? Of the reasons given, that’s the most likely. But energy is a commodity. Even non-renewable sources are vast, and renewable sources are, from a human standpoint, infinite.
Ease congestion? Again, a possibility, but not as likely. Nobody wants a high-speed rail line in their back yard, though. I used to live a couple of miles from the NE corridor line in New Jersey, and even an 80-mph train is surprisingly noisy. So the surface street routes between homes and train station parking lots will be congested even in the best case.
But “easing” congestion is a telling remark. What it says is that the roads will clear up so you can take your car, because the other chumps will take the stupid train. That may gain support for a proposal, but it doesn’t mean it will happen. More than likely, the roads will be just as congested as ever, but a study projects that a high percentage of new riders will elect the train instead. So what? Congestion is only eased against some might-have-been-future scenario. And two can play the might-have-been scenario. For example, inventing flying cars would ease hypothetical future congestion. Increased use of bicycles or those Segway pod vehicles would ease future congestion, as would more telecommuting. And, for that matter, so would fairies riding unicorns to my house to give me a paycheck for not working.
Create jobs? Oh, yes. That would happen. And the best part about them, from the government’s standpoint, is that they would all be government jobs. And what kind of jobs would they be? Well, today, we still have a few transportation jobs like auto mechanic. Consider someone working on individuals’ cars in a privately-owned and probably non-union, garage. There are dozens of garages like that in their area. If they don’t like their job, they can change employers. They can go with a chain like Jiffy-Lube or a mom and pop shop. They can be generalists, or they can specialize in a particular type of car, or a particular part of the car like transmissions, according to their interests. So can the people who own the garage, as they desire.
Government jobs wouldn’t be like that. No, sir. In the future, all these high-speed rail jobs would either be civil service jobs or too-big-to-fail public-private-partnership jobs like AMTRAC. You’d be paying dues to SEIU or AFSCME or the equivalent, which is to say, making huge contributions to politicians. Better yet, you, the employee, would know who to vote for, because if they got thrown out of power, you might lose your job. That doesn’t happen when you work for Jiffy Lube or a small garage.
Those are “good jobs” — good for the government, and particularly, for the people who run it.
In my next post, I’ll respond to the notion that “we can’t afford not to” spend more money.