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Chilling Economic News

I guess I already knew this was happening. I knew beforehand that it was inevitable with the policies put in place. But seeing it in print was still depressing and scary, nonetheless. USA Today:

Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds.

At the same time, government-provided benefits -- from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs -- rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.

The last paragraph of the piece sums things up perfectly (emphasis mine):

Economist David Henderson of the conservative Hoover Institution says a shift from private wages to government benefits saps the economy of dynamism. "People are paid for being rather than for producing," he says.

Those on the left, especially the Obama apologists, can say the tea party movement and the public opinion polls reflect some outbreak of racism or mob mentality, but they are either idiots or liars. It is not difficult to see why those in the country are upset and outraged by what they see happening to their society and their economy. The cause and effect, if we didn't already know it instinctively, becomes clearer through empirical evidence every day. (Hat tip to Kim for pointing me to the article.)

(Crossposted at Riehl World View where I am guest blogging for Dan Riehl.)


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Comments (54)

"People are paid for bei... (Below threshold)

"People are paid for being rather than for producing," he says.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the population thinks this is a good thing.

The Hoover Institute... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

The Hoover Institute?

No thanks.

New currency for the United... (Below threshold)
bostinks2:

New currency for the United States will be FRICKEN FOOD STAMPS. There is no love for leftist ideals here. They can spew their dispicable racist, atheistic, pedophile loving, diversity, spread the wealth, islam, man made terror tolerating, global warming crapola, mental all they want. this WH has destroyed america.

I have friends -- smart, ca... (Below threshold)
James H:

I have friends -- smart, capable people with graduate degrees -- who have been out of work for a year or more because of this awful economy. One currently lives with family. Another has scraped by with a combination of temporary work, freelancing, loans from friends and, yes, government assistance. That government assistance was vital to get my friend through the dry period.

But all the government assistance still troubles me, particularly (and I hate to say this) the continued extension of unemployment benefits, which pay a person for "being" rather than "doing," as opposed to the above.

I really wonder how this recession might have been differerent if we'd poured money into a new WPA or similar rather than into an ill-defined "stimulus" hodgepodge. At least there, people receiving government assistance would have done so by creating things of value -- whether structural, financial, or cultural -- rather than stew at home about how they couldn't find a job.

Last year on NPR, I heard a great story where they interviewed a few people who worked for the old WPA. One man pointed out the the WPA was valuable not merely because it put money in people's pockets, but because it gave them a reason to feel proud. They weren't just on the government dole. They were working at something and receiving a fair wage in return.

Someone tell Lorie that the... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

Someone tell Lorie that the country is in a recession - one that started and accelerated under the Bush administration.

Except people don't have th... (Below threshold)

Except people don't have that same sense of pride, James. They'd much rather sit home with their XBox, cell phone, and HDTV than dig a ditch or help build something. That's simply the truth. While a minority would still feel the way those of the 30s and 40s felt, that's the minority that benefit from temporary assistance (the kind of assistance that I just about all of us support), they're the ones that have always worked and will always work given the chance, they're not looking at government cheese as a career goal.

"People are paid for being ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"People are paid for being rather than for producing,"

Well, that's how the left sees people: not as valuable for their abilities, but as interchangeable cogs in a machine. Why does Barry promise "shovel ready jobs"? Because those low wage, no-expertise-needed jobs are representative of what the left sees the average American being worthy of. Faceless, purposeless, without value except what the government decides to give them.

I work for the largest employer in Massachusetts. There will be no raises for anyone this year and probably none the next. Yet the Boston Fire Dept just got a deal giving their members a bonus for showing up to work sober! So government union employees get a bonus, not for doing a good job, but for not being drunk or high on the job.

Even in this socialist state people are pissed.

"Someone tell Lorie that... (Below threshold)
cirby:

"Someone tell Lorie that the country is in a recession"

...that started after the Democrats took over Congress. You know, the actual part of the government that controls spending. They've had control for three years now - you can stop trying to blame it on Bush. Well, maybe you can't, but rational people can.

Democrats don't care.... (Below threshold)
Hank:

Democrats don't care.

They simply figure that jobless americans relying on govt programs to survive are democrat votes they can count on.

much rather sit ho... (Below threshold)
James H:
much rather sit home with their XBox, cell phone, and HDTV than dig a ditch or help build something

I'd rather be at home with my XBox, too, y'know. But if somebody offers me a paycheck to do honest work, I'll look for dishonest work first. If the used-car lots aren't hiring, I'll take the honest work. Then I'll cash my paycheck and buy a new XBox game.

Seriously, though, it's worth noting that not everybody would be out digging a ditch or similar manual labor. For example:

* Architects and engineers would be hired to design buildings and bridges.
* Writers, editors, and videographers could be tasked with creating educational videos about American history.
* A team of sculptors could add Barack Obama to Mount Rushmore.

And so forth. The point is that not all of the work would necessarily involve ditch-digging, and worthy projects could be found across multiple disciplines.

One of the more interesting things about WPA is that its work went beyond the proverbial ditch-digging. People were, for example, paid to compile histories, sculpt facades for buildings, put on plays, and so forth. In fact, today, some of those WPA-commissioned artistic undertakings are considered cultural treasures.

REPUBLICAN RYAN BRUMBERG AN... (Below threshold)

REPUBLICAN RYAN BRUMBERG ANNOUNCES BID FOR CONGRESS IN NEW YORK'S 14TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT--CHALLENGES DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT

New York, NY--Ryan Brumberg has resigned his position as a Management Consultant at McKinsey & Company to challenge incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney for New York's 14th Congressional District. Socially liberal and fiscally conservative, Mr. Brumberg is the new breed of the Republican Party.

Mr. Brumberg outlined his philosophy: "History has repeatedly shown that despite good intentions; corporate bailouts, massive stimulus spending, and heavy corporate regulation will weaken the economic recovery, increase deficits, and drive the country towards bankruptcy. Innovation and private industry, not government and bureaucracy, create sustainable jobs."

In challenging Democratic Representative Maloney, candidate Brumberg has pledged to bring a fact-based approach to the nation's most pressing problems.

Brumberg elaborated: "The problems facing our economy and finances are too severe to allow ideology--Democratic or Republican--to guide our national decisions. Government needs to be smarter. America should continue to be the envy of the world, and New York the envy of America."

Mr. Brumberg's campaign officially kicked off Thursday night, April 29th, at a fundraising celebration hosted by supporters of Brumberg for Congress. Brumberg has already raised approximately 50% per cent as much campaign funds in the past three weeks, as the prior three Republican candidates raised in the past three elections combined.

A lifelong New Yorker, Ryan Brumberg grew up just outside of the city. He has deep roots in Manhattan's East Side, where his family has lived for more than 60 years. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University, with top honors from Stanford Law School, and then returned home to New York City to join McKinsey & Company.

Visit Brumberg 2010 for more information.

I know I'm in the political... (Below threshold)
James H:

I know I'm in the political minority here, but please say I'm not the only one who resents Jay Patel's spamtastic intrusion.

Someone tell Lorie... (Below threshold)
Eric:
Someone tell Lorie that the country is in a recession - one that started and accelerated under the Bush administration.

Lee, let me fix that for you.

Someone tell Lorie that the country is in a recession - one that started under the Bush administration, the Democrat controlled of the House of Representatives, the Democrat controlled Senate, and accelerated under the Obama administration.

I think that is a little more accurate.

Hey idiot Ward...who contro... (Below threshold)
Michael:

Hey idiot Ward...who controlled the House and Seanate dutring the last two years of Bush's second term? Dems you moron!

And so forth. The point ... (Below threshold)

And so forth. The point is that not all of the work would necessarily involve ditch-digging, and worthy projects could be found across multiple disciplines.

True. You're saying exactly what I said in another way. The people that could benefit from such a program are a minority, the minority that would work given the chance and currently need temporary assistance. I would wager that there aren't a lot of engineers and architects that are looking at a recession as their chance to get on the gubmint dole for life, they're the ones that will be back working sooner rather than later (well, if the Democrats would let the economy recover, etc etc). However, it is also true that it would cost us, as a country, much less to stop retarding the economy and let those people go back to work for private businesses than pay them with tax money (sorry, "chinese yen") through the notoriously inefficient and wasteful government system. Before Obama and his buddies set to work the predictions were that the economy would be recovering last summer. These were the predictions during the winter of 2008-2009. Instead a full year now has been lost and the Fed has now taken to clutching at straws to find something positive to talk about. We aren't expected to see unemployment much below 10% for YEARS...yet in late 2008 and early 2009 the talk was recovery by mid to end of 2009. Funny...something happened in the interim that changed all those projections...

I'll wager there are a lot ... (Below threshold)
James H:

I'll wager there are a lot of people who'd prefer private industry handle the architects and engineers, though I would argue that in serious recession or in depression, putting the architects and engineers (as well as the artists, writers, actors, sculptors, plumbers, accountants, and lawyers) on the government payroll -- not the government dole -- can help stimulate the economy until it comes back on its own.

Oh, and by the way, in conjunction with my new WPA, I would have temporarily suspended some environmental regs (with the exception of pollutants released as part of the project) for projects (state, federal and local) that were part of the new WPA. I mean, the snail darter is nice and everything, but I'd rather have jobs for human beings.

"Someone tell Lorie that th... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"Someone tell Lorie that the country is in a recession - one that started and accelerated under the Bush administration."

Someone tell Lee Ward that his Obamassiah has been in the White House for 1 1/2 years and has done nothing to improve matters.

REALITY SUCKS, DOESN'T IT LEE? Oh, and your buddies approval rating is down to 42% this morning and continuing south. Imagine that!

and someone tell Lee Ward t... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

and someone tell Lee Ward that the DEMOCRATS have controlled BOTH Houses of Congress for 3 1/2 years.

the recession started when THEY took over...and has ACCELERATED since Lord Obama took the throne.

Perhaps Lee can explain why... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Perhaps Lee can explain why the left sees that it is only natural in a recession that workers in private industry should face pay freezes and pay cuts, but that workers in government jobs should not see even the slightest reduction in their annual raises?

Why are government (and predominantly union) workers sacrosanct? Why should they not see their pay, which is 40% higher on average than their counterparts in the private sector, frozen or cut? Why should their extravagant pension plans not be curtailed?

Why do the libs always talk about sharing the sacrifice when really what they mean is that the rest of us should share the sacrifice so they don;t have to?

Ahem. The man who should h... (Below threshold)
James H:

Ahem. The man who should have seen this coming (one Alan G.) and acted to mitigate its impact was appointed by a Republican, re-appointed by a Democrat, then reappointed by a Republican.

Factors causing this recession can be traced to a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. In the interim, we also saw a Republican president and a Democratic Congress.

I advocate issueing all of them fiddles while the economy burns.

James H - I kno... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

James H -

I know I'm in the political minority here, but please say I'm not the only one who resents Jay Patel's spamtastic intrusion.

You and me both. Don't give a damn what party they belong to, spam is spam. (That's one thing that got me pissed off about Ron Paul - his army of spammers that kept going around stinking up the place. I don't care how good your ideas are if you piss people off so much they won't look at them in the first place.)

I'll wager there are a lot of people who'd prefer private industry handle the architects and engineers, though I would argue that in serious recession or in depression, putting the architects and engineers (as well as the artists, writers, actors, sculptors, plumbers, accountants, and lawyers) on the government payroll -- not the government dole -- can help stimulate the economy until it comes back on its own.

I can see just a few minor problems with that, James. First, the need for the government to pay a 'living' wage. You won't get many people out to do that sort of skilled work for minimum wage - and once you hire them in as government employees they'll be on the GS schedule and subject to the requirements thereof.

Second, we're already underwater on the budget. We had a chance with the 'stimulus' package, but who knows where THAT all went.

Plus, there's a fair amount of debate over whether the programs FDR put into place made the Depression a lot worse and last a lot longer than it would have otherwise. I recently heard about the Depression of 1920. It sounds like a whole lot of no fun at all, but it seems to have been handled a lot better than the current recession.

The Forgotten Depression of 1920 - Thomas E. Woods, Jr. - Mises Daily

The economic situation in 1920 was grim. By that year unemployment had jumped from 4 percent to nearly 12 percent, and GNP declined 17 percent. No wonder, then, that Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover -- falsely characterized as a supporter of laissez-faire economics -- urged President Harding to consider an array of interventions to turn the economy around. Hoover was ignored.

Instead of "fiscal stimulus," Harding cut the government's budget nearly in half between 1920 and 1922. The rest of Harding's approach was equally laissez-faire. Tax rates were slashed for all income groups. The national debt was reduced by one-third.

The Federal Reserve's activity, moreover, was hardly noticeable. As one economic historian puts it, "Despite the severity of the contraction, the Fed did not move to use its powers to turn the money supply around and fight the contraction."[2] By the late summer of 1921, signs of recovery were already visible. The following year, unemployment was back down to 6.7 percent and it was only 2.4 percent by 1923.
I might have to reconsider my opinions about Harding. Looks like he got at least one thing right...

The big trick would be cutting government spending in half. Instead of $3.6 trillion, only $1.8 trillion... with an income of $2 trillion/year, we might be able to start paying down the Debt some. But if the idea is to jumpstart the economy, the way to do it seems to be to allow businesses to keep their money so they can expand, not take their money in taxes to give back to the companies in 'stimulus', eating up the government's share in the process.

"I mean, the snail darter i... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

"I mean, the snail darter is nice and everything, but I'd rather have jobs for human beings."

LOL. Kind of like the solar farms being booted by the environmentalists in the Mojave because it would shade the desert too much. They were worried about the wildlife not being able to cope with the microclimate changes.

The worst part about all of... (Below threshold)
914:

The worst part about all of this is Lord of the lackwits is still in office for another year and a half. Unless he gets systematically removed like the boil on society he is.

Who's term expires at the e... (Below threshold)

Who's term expires at the end of 2011?

More {{{ { { { CHILLING } }... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

More {{{ { { { CHILLING } } } }}} economic news:

BOSTON (Reuters) - Fidelity Investments said average U.S. retirement-account balances continued to rise in the first quarter as stock markets recovered and more savers resumed contributions to their savings accounts. ...

The average account balance in the 401(k) plans surveyed by Fidelity stood at $66,900 at the end of the first quarter, up 41 percent from the same point a year ago.

We're doomed.

Yo' Adriane, The s... (Below threshold)
914:

Yo' Adriane,

The stock markets in freefall below 10,000 again just like lackwits approval numbers are below 42%. Have another glass of cool-aid on me.

Since when does economic re... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

Since when does economic reality even apply to young liberal idiots??

"Plus, there's a fair amoun... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"Plus, there's a fair amount of debate over whether the programs FDR put into place made the Depression a lot worse and last a lot longer than it would have otherwise."

Henry Morgenthau, Jr, FDR's SecTres commented IIRC in 1939, when reviewing all the past programs and money spent "All that money, wasted!"

GarandFan, JLawson:<p... (Below threshold)
James H:

GarandFan, JLawson:

Neither of you has commented on my plan to use government funds to add Barack Obama to Mount Rushmore. Therefore, I assume that you agree with my proposal.

:P

Neither of you has commente... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Neither of you has commented on my plan to use government funds to add Barack Obama to Mount Rushmore. Therefore, I assume that you agree with my proposal.

James, don't have to comment. The Environmentalists won't let you. If Gutzon Borglum were to make the proposal today, it would be stillborn. And if by some chance it were approved, Gutzon would be in jail after OSHA found out he was letting his kids plant and set off dynamite charges.

Neither of you has comme... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Neither of you has commented on my plan to use government funds to add Barack Obama to Mount Rushmore. Therefore, I assume that you agree with my proposal.

:P

Well, I think one criteria is that you've got to be dead. And seeing we'd end up with Pres. Joe Biden if Obama qualified, I'm going to have to say I disagree with you on this.

However, they're looking for a model for the backside of the equine for the Crazy Horse monument. I think Obama's face would work well there!

"However, they're looking f... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"However, they're looking for a model for the backside of the equine for the Crazy Horse monument. I think Obama's face would work well there!"

Hahahahahaha!!!!

Thread Winner!

JLaw:Assume may ma... (Below threshold)
James H:

JLaw:

Assume may make an ass out of u and me, but it does not follow that it makes an ass out of Obama ...

"...but it does not follow ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"...but it does not follow that it makes an ass out of Obama."

That would be disrespectful towards asses. After all, asses have a useful purpose.

Back to seriousness.<... (Below threshold)
James H:

Back to seriousness.

Full disclosure: I was at a low point several years ago, and I did take unemployment then. Took me about eight months to get back on my feet both job-wise and personal-wise. That second, I think, was directly related to the first. When you're out of work, you do spend a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself, particularly when you send out resumes and don't get responses. It's very difficult to keep telling yourself that a judgment on your work qualifications is not a judgment on you, personally.

I'm gung-ho about WPA-style programs in a recession in part because that feeling of worthlessness can be absolutely devastating to an individual. On a macro level, that despair can lead people to more or less check out from the economy, which is no good for anybody. Give them work and they'll have a bit more pride in themsleves. That said, I'll admit that there are number of problems inherent in WPA programs. Nothing's perfect.

This is where I had a real problem with last year's stimulus bill. While dollars did get appropriated here and there for worthwhile infrastructure projects, I think it was too unfocused. Also, I thought it focused on shoveling money onto the fire rather than giving some thought to what the money would do.

Ideally, I would have preferred a stimulus program that wasn't called "stimulus," but was instead predicated on building something that would yield economic returns over the long term. Some ideas:

  • The American Society of Civil Engineers has found America's infrastructure wanting. Why not repair that?
  • Biotech is supposed to be the next big thing. I'd fast-track immigration status for any scientist abroad who'd come here to America to research, and we could pitch government subsidies to help with R&D.
  • We don't have any high-speed rail. Study it and see if there'd be a good return for federal dollars spent on securing rights of way and laying track.

And so on. Just calling something "stimulus" gives Congress excuses to hang pork products.

Speaking of which, I don't see the budget being slashed anytime soon. If we had a sane process, maybe. But the current procedure basically consists of wooing key congressmen until you have a program, then passing it. I get a headache Every time I read about a new Pentagon gewgaw being assembled and manufactured in a total of 435 congressional districts.

This isn't a constitutional republic. It's appropriations by Rube Goldberg.

This is where I had a re... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

This is where I had a real problem with last year's stimulus bill. While dollars did get appropriated here and there for worthwhile infrastructure projects, I think it was too unfocused. Also, I thought it focused on shoveling money onto the fire rather than giving some thought to what the money would do.

Me too. Actually, I think a lot of it went for payoffs. I think Obama's got a LOT of debts outstanding, of one sort or another.

Re high-speed rail - you might find this discussion interesting. My view? Neat idea, technically feasible, the economics are absolutely terrible.

From Atlanta to Orlando (for example) it's about $300 one way, stuffed into the equivalent of a flying Greyhound bus for an hour or so. Plus hassle of airport, ground transportation, all that.

From Atlanta to Orlando via rail, it's 38 hours, costs $368. You'd at least have leg room, and a dining car, (figure in meals expenses, unless you bring your own) and a fair-sized washroom instead of the tiny airline lavs. You'll route up through Washington DC, have a 5 hour layover there (just enough time to go moon the White House) and then flee down to Orlando.

BTW, the train only goes once a day in each direction - up to Washington or down to New Orleans.

Plus, rail nets aren't flexible. You've got the last-mile problem, and it's a BIG country to cover...

Planes are faster, much more flexible on their scheduling, and don't represent near so much spent on infrastructure. (Airports being relatively cheap to build...)

A tentative pricing for High speed rail from Tampa to Orlando was running at about $14 million a mile just for the track. You'd need a LOT of riders to cover the cost, and your schedule would have to match theirs.

I'm just not seeing it. I'd love to be wrong, but it really seems like the economics are totally against it at this point.

JLaw:Hm. What abo... (Below threshold)
James H:

JLaw:

Hm. What about freight? Is it feasible to move freight over high-speed rail?

I also wonder if it would be smart to implement it regionally rather than on a national level. Maybe study projects in California and on a line that covers New York, Chicago, and DC?

I hope you know I'm not advocating a boondoggle with high-speed rail. I'm throwing spaghetti at a wall here.

"I'm gung-ho about WPA-styl... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"I'm gung-ho about WPA-style programs in a recession in part because that feeling of worthlessness can be absolutely devastating to an individual."

The program started out and floundered, interesting story for another time. Eventually they got it right. Still have several structures in town built by WPA.

What ever happened to all those "shovel ready jobs"?

Bi-tech. Yeah, Kalifornia has shoveled millions into that...... Too bad the taxpayers financing it will never see any rewards, or as capitalists would say 'return on investment'. And new, cutting edge medical advancements cost money. ObamaCare took care of incentivzing that, didn't it"

High-speed rail. I think that takes 'energy', we have problems in that area. NO coal, No fuel, NO carbon emissions, NIMBY!

"This isn't a constitutional republic. It's appropriations by Rube Goldberg."

James, this is a WHOLE bunch of disparate groups. Each with their own wants, needs, aspirations and desires.

The only 'problem' is getting them to work together. It can be done. It's been done in the past. The first order of business is getting a LEADER. And quite frankly, right now, we ain't got one. A LEADER gets those different groups together and gets them to see what they can accomplish together. The current CLOWN likes to demonize different groups and pit them AGAINST one another.

"I don't see the budget ... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

"I don't see the budget being slashed anytime soon"

Not until the new congress is sworn in in January 2011. Then hopefully we'll see some serious slashin. If not, the USA is history.

It was a good run though--over 200 years.

Hm. What about freight? ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Hm. What about freight? Is it feasible to move freight over high-speed rail?

Yes... and no. If something is time-sensitive, then shipping it via air gets it there faster. Figure coast to coast, 3000 miles. I figure about 150 mph average (stops and all) so you're looking at 20 hours to get a package from left to right. Plus handling on each end. The cost would have to be less than flying it FedEx or UPS overnight. If it isn't time sensitive, then it doesn't have to go high-speed rail.

Passengers are notoriously time-sensitive. :)

I also wonder if it would be smart to implement it regionally rather than on a national level. Maybe study projects in California and on a line that covers New York, Chicago, and DC?

One of the supposed advantages of a high-speed line is that you get on it *here* and get off it *there*. Having to connect the segments would be a royal pain. In fact, Amtrak uses busses on some of its routes, a fact I though was just plain nuts.

But you're still paying about $15 million a mile for construction. Plus rolling stock. Not to mention costs for right of ways, and protection for the tracks. (You can just imagine what would happen if some asshole stacks a half-dozen concrete blocks on the track.) Setting it up would be a killer.

And you're going to have a hard time getting the general public to see the utility of high-speed rail outside of the Bos-Wash corridor, which has had scheduled train service for quite a while. Amtrak's just barely making money on that corridor, and losing it elsewhere on the system.

It's a heck of a problem. You've got to have a lot of riders, but to get them you've got to make it more attractive than any other form of transport - which means you've got to invest heavily in rails, facilities, rolling stock and the like. You've got to have a convenient schedule, you've got to have the equipment to serve that schedule, and spares.

But if it's not convenient, people won't use it - and your money's wasted.

I hope you know I'm not advocating a boondoggle with high-speed rail. I'm throwing spaghetti at a wall here.

Oh, not a problem. As I've said, I think it's a wonderful idea - but there's just some very serious issues when it comes to the economics. AmTrak's not making a profit overall, it's kept alive by subsidies. I don't think there's a light-rail system anywhere in the US carrying passengers that's making money from the ridership.

And I wish there were - it'd be easier to justify high-speed proposals if you could point at a passenger rail system here in the US that was making money.

"And I wish there were - it... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"And I wish there were - it'd be easier to justify high-speed proposals if you could point at a passenger rail system here in the US that was making money."

There was a proposal to build 'high-speed' rail here in Kalifornia. Voters asked to approve a bond for partial financing (and they did). The rest was to come from 'private sources'. The projections were all ROSY! Can't lose. Only a certain amount was taxpayer money. NO MORE WOULD BE ASKED FOR.
Well someone started crunching all the numbers and the ROSY projections were pretty close. As long as EVERY person in Kalifornia used the system EVERY day (and rode at least 2-3 times in the same day at least once a week, IIRC). But the private financing still didn't surface. No one was rushing forward with THEIR money. Then the NIMBYS started screaming about not wanting it in their part of town. Luckily for the taxpayers, the state has yet to sell those bonds (if they can even find takers). Now the talk is that the projected costs are actually twice what was put out.

As JL pointed out. It's great for here to here. In Europe and Japan, that's center of town to center of town. But you have to want to go THERE. And that affects ridership.

High-speed freight would be great if the nation was perfectly FLAT. You should see the freight trains traversing the Cajon Pass. Inch their way up, inch their way down. Freight is heavy UP and DOWN. But down it PUSHES. Over the years they've had a couple of trains lose power and the freight pushed the trains right off the track.

Funny, years ago I read an article (early 1900's) of how the dawn of the horseless carriage would 'eliminate the foul stench on city streets, and CLEAR the air."

I'm sure there will be innovations in transportation in the future. But somehow, those innovations will also have 'costs'.

That's one interpretation o... (Below threshold)
Jeffrey L. Taylor:

That's one interpretation of the data you present, another is people are increasing living off savings, investments, loans, cash-back refinancing, etc. They don't call them wage slaves for nothing.

Let's ask the Greeks how ha... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Let's ask the Greeks how having more government workers than private workers, and having cradle to grave entitlements has worked out for them.

Better yet, lets ask the Germans, who are GETTING REALLY PISSED OFF, because they lent the Greeks money, and now see no chance of getting it back.

See the Greeks. See Obamanomics. See our financial future. Want more? Check out Spain. Their economy went "green". Only now it's looking kinda brown. Like horse shit.

They've been talking about ... (Below threshold)

They've been talking about high speed rail from upstate to NYC for years, also, what with all the commuters to the city (all those Wall Street fat cats, dontcha know). Nothing happening here, either. People were hoping some of Obey-Won's high speed rail money would flow this way, but you don't have to pay off people that blindly vote Democrat already (which is why blacks and unions never really seem to get much out of Democrats, for all their talk). Like everywhere else, it seems like a great idea until you sit down and crunch the numbers and when you need a math book to figure out how to say that many zeroes it gets delayed again. The only way to make it look feasible is by forcing the entire country to chip in for it (aka federal grants).

Do I hear any votes for a <... (Below threshold)
James H:

Do I hear any votes for a monorail?

Aren't you one of the Littl... (Below threshold)

Aren't you one of the Little Rascals, James H? ;)

Written in 1919:A... (Below threshold)

Written in 1919:
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

"With all this as background, it is hard to disagree with the general opinion that "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" is a clinging to old-fashioned common sense by a man deeply in need of something to cling to. "

I read comments from some y... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

I read comments from some young people in Greece who were out protesting and they sound a lot like comments made by Tea Party protesters in the U.S. The difference is that Greece is a generation ahead of where the U.S. is going if the U.S. keeps on the liberal spending track. Some have wondered what our grandchildren will think of this generation if we keep spending, well you only need to listen to what the young people in Greece think about their parents and grandparents to find out. It's not complimentary.

Regardless of what party did what and spent what, it has to change. Long term viability requires the U.S. government to shrink relative to the national GDP. Some Democrats are waking up to that fact and abandoning the Obama agenda and Republicans are poised to gain seats, but unfortunately, the far left has another 7 months to pass spending bills that will be hard to repeal even if Republicans end up back in full control after the 2012 elections.

One of those spending plans Congress is now considering is a bill introduced by Senator Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), to bail out private union pension plans that are failing. Casey says it will save jobs and help people. I don't know how it's going to save jobs overall, but hey, if helping people with taxpayer money justifies giving it away then lets bail out individual 401(K) plans.

Adrian Browne wrote:<... (Below threshold)
iwogisdead:

Adrian Browne wrote:

The average account balance in the 401(k) plans surveyed by Fidelity stood at $66,900 at the end of the first quarter, up 41 percent from the same point a year ago.

Well, of course they're up. The stock market tanked as soon it was clear that Obama would be president. First Quarter of '09 was a low point for market. How do those 401k accounts compare to where they were in the First Quarter of '08, back when grown-ups were in charge of the White House?

Let me help--today the DJIA is down over 30% from First Quarter of '08.

James H, Garandfan -<... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

James H, Garandfan -

Funny, years ago I read an article (early 1900's) of how the dawn of the horseless carriage would 'eliminate the foul stench on city streets, and CLEAR the air."

NYC had one hell of a problem getting rid of the used equine fuel. Stuff would dry, powder in the streets, get blown around as dust. And we won't even mention the flies and the attendant disease problems.

Nineteenth-century cities depended on thousands of horses for their daily functioning. All transport, whether of goods or people, was drawn by horses. London in 1900 had 11,000 cabs, all horse-powered. There were also several thousand buses, each of which required 12 horses per day, a total of more than 50,000 horses. In addition, there were countless carts, drays, and wains, all working constantly to deliver the goods needed by the rapidly growing population of what was then the largest city in the world. Similar figures could be produced for any great city of the time.*

The problem of course was that all these horses produced huge amounts of manure. A horse will on average produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day. Consequently, the streets of nineteenth-century cities were covered by horse manure. This in turn attracted huge numbers of flies, and the dried and ground-up manure was blown everywhere. In New York in 1900, the population of 100,000 horses produced 2.5 million pounds of horse manure per day, which all had to be swept up and disposed of. (See Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 [New York: Oxford University Press, 1999]).

In 1898 the first international urban-planning conference convened in New York. It was abandoned after three days, instead of the scheduled ten, because none of the delegates could see any solution to the growing crisis posed by urban horses and their output.

The problem did indeed seem intractable. The larger and richer that cities became, the more horses they needed to function. The more horses, the more manure. Writing in the Times of London in 1894, one writer estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. Moreover, all these horses had to be stabled, which used up ever-larger areas of increasingly valuable land. And as the number of horses grew, ever-more land had to be devoted to producing hay to feed them (rather than producing food for people), and this had to be brought into cities and distributed--by horse-drawn vehicles. It seemed that urban civilization was doomed.

From The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894

The folks in 1894 would probably look on our cities as being marvels of cleanliness. And THIS is the sort of world our luddite 'greens' fantasize about. No power plants, no IC engines, forget about the killing smogs in London - things were so much more 'organic' and 'natural' then!

(But ya know, I don't care HOW 'natural' or 'organic' it is, it's still horseshit!)

JL - don't remind me about ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

JL - don't remind me about horse clean up. I got two of them! Thinking of renaming one of them Lee Ward because....well you can figure that out. :)

One thing wrong with the po... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

One thing wrong with the post. Social Security did not go up. We got '0' increase but medicare cost went up. In the end we lost take home dollars.

Do I hear any v... (Below threshold)
Do I hear any votes for a monorail?
That episode was the first thing I thought of the first time I saw a comment about HSR in this thread.
Global manuring is just a t... (Below threshold)
James H:

Global manuring is just a theory!!

On a more serious note:

The folks in 1894 would probably look on our cities as being marvels of cleanliness. And THIS is the sort of world our luddite 'greens' fantasize about. No power plants, no IC engines, forget about the killing smogs in London - things were so much more 'organic' and 'natural' then!

A few things come to mind. First, reducing emissions in cars (I'm thinking of technology like catalytic converters) has done a hell of a lot to make urban air more palatable. I've seen pictures of NYC today vs. NYC in the 1960s, and the difference in smog pollution is noticeable.

Second thing: This particular liberal's vision of an ideal city does not involve turning the clock back to 1894. That's a load of horse ... well, you know.

That said, I am intrigued by ideas like congestion pricing -- that is, setting a price to drive cars in a city. I'm not advocating some cockamamie socialist scheme. Rather, you have major metropolitan areas where the city itself plays host to individuals who work in urban centers but live in jurisdictions outside the city limits. Thos individuals don't pay into city revenues (i.e. property taxes) at the same rate as residents, but they do use city services (i.e. roads). If these individuals cause wear and tear on city roads, should they be billed for using them through congestion pricing?

Just a thought.

My ideal city grid, actually, involves on-street parking that lets you plug in your car to charge it while you're off doing whatever it is you do. While you're parked, you juice up over the city's electrical grid. Just to keep the free market in effect, I'd require the grid to be neutral, letting you buy from whatever electricity provider you want.

Of course, this creates another problem: Can you price this service such that city grids can stand the increased use? And how will this affect New Jersey, where self-serve gas stations are prohibited by law?

Which leads me to an interesting observation. Each generation's solution begets a problem for the next generation.

Carrying stuff yourself was drudgery, so we domesticated the horse. Ensuing generations had to deal with horse manure. Horses were stinky, so we created gas-powered automobiles. Ensuing generations had to deal with fossil fuel depletion and air pollution. Kings became a bother, so we invented Congress. And we still don't have a solution to that one.




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