If you can’t afford your mortgage payments, you can’t put an addition on your house.

Yet that is exactly what the Obama administration proposes to do by spending $53 billion to kick off a new, high-speed rail-building project.

Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime train rider and rail proponent, publicized the plan during a train trip from Washington to Philadelphia.

In last month’s State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of America access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

A secondary goal, he said, would be creating thousands of jobs in the short term and increasing American competitiveness in the long run.

Like a homeowner, a government makes choices. Our choice as a nation has been to slash federal taxes, fight two wars on credit, give drug coverage to seniors and provide health care to 30 million more citizens.

We also chose to eliminate regulations on banks, allowing them to make foolhardy investments in order to maintain short-term profits for investors and massive bonuses for CEOs. That experiment ended in a crippling recession from which we are only beginning to emerge.

Those were all conscious choices and, as we like to tell teenagers, choices have consequences.

In our case, the consequences are clear — 40 cents of every federal dollar spent is borrowed and we now have a $14 trillion national debt. That’s about $45,000 for every man, woman and child in the country and it grows by $4.15 billion per day. That’s right, $4.15 billion PER DAY.

Our two wars cost us about $12 billion per month, while Medicaid and Medicare are quickly heading toward insolvency.

In short, we’ve made expensive choices without funding them.

And now we want to spend $53 billion to start a massive rail-building program?

We are a wealthy country, and we can afford many things, but we can’t afford everything.

We have also lost faith in our federal government’s ability to select and effectively execute massive programs like this.

Every large project and program is subject to pork-barreling, log-rolling and corrupt contracting.

Don’t believe it? Consider Boston’s Big Dig, estimated in 1985 to cost $2.8 billion. The final price tag was $22 billion.

What Boston got was leaking tunnels, substandard materials, corrupt contractors and fraudulent oversight.

The Obama rail plan would be the Big Dig a hundred times over.

We once lived in a country that could build dams, canals and highways, things that contributed to our national wealth.

Today, while other countries seem able to execute such ambitious projects, we seem to build costly boondoggles.

The rail plan wouldn’t even create jobs quickly. New highway projects often take a decade to get to the construction stage. Obtaining land and passing regulatory hurdles in major urban corridors would take even longer.

The only jobs this rail plan would create now would be for bureaucrats, well-connected engineering firms and Washington lawyers.

The Obama-Biden proposal should be dead on arrival. If not, the Republican House should derail it before it leaves the station.

Rail proponents should return when we have balanced the budget.

[email protected]

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: