A Sweepstakes and a Downpayment
The daily roll-out of the “stimulus” spending is beginning to feel like a joke. One day, we’re hearing about a “sweepstakes”:
For nearly a year, city officials have been planning the 66th police training academy, intent on keeping up the size of the police force as the crime rate increased.
But the city’s fiscal crisis has overwhelmed that plan, and the academy has been put off indefinitely. Police Chief Dean M. Esserman is now jumping into President Obama’s $4-billion stimulus sweepstakes for law enforcement, eager to win a grant to hire the novice officers who would graduate.
The next it’s yet another “down payment”:
President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined plans for a high-speed rail network he said would change the way Americans travel, drawing comparisons to the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system.
Obama was careful to point out that his plan was only a down payment on an ambitious plan that, if realized, could connect Chicago and St. Louis, Orlando and Miami, Portland and Seattle and dozens of other metropolitan areas around the country with high-speed trains.
I like the idea of a high-speed railway system, but I do wonder whether it’s practical to “invest” in such infrastructure. Americans can already crisscross the nation by plane, and for shorter distances, we seem to prefer our own cars. (Enhancing that individual, independent freedom was one difference that undermines comparisons with the interstate highway system.) Where a high-speed railway would be most attractive, its advantages would be self defeating: It would be wonderful to hop on a train in Fall River, for example, and zip to Boston in fifteen to twenty minutes, but because adding stops along the way would lengthen the trip, folks would find themselves having to utilize multiple modes of transportation where before one sufficed.
It isn’t irrelevant to consider that, absent the willingness of the federal government to indulge in exploding debt and deficits, there would be no economic justification for this spending.