The looming budget battle has all the makings of a train wreck. Nowhere, from either side of the aisle, do we see really serious proposals for adequately reducing the federal deficit. And “train wreck” is an appropriate term, given one of the items in the Administration’s budget proposal.
The Administration wants to spend $56 billion—that’s billion with a “b”—on high-speed rail service. Over the next 25 years—hold onto your hat—the total cost would be $800 billion! This, my friends, is madness in the extreme.
Supporters of high-speed rail have their reasons. One is political: In the short term, building high-speed rail will create jobs. One is ideological: Supporters say we need to keep pace with the technologies being used by other nations, like China. And one is pure insanity: Warning about lagging behind other countries, Vice President Biden ominously predicted that “If we don’t get a grip, folks, they’ll not only be teaching us, they’re gonna own our kids.”
Really? If we can’t get from New York to D.C. on a train faster than the Chinese can get from Beijing to Shanghai, the Chinese will own our kids? That’s funny, because I’m certain that the way the Chinese will own our kids is if we continue to spend billions and trillions of taxpayer dollars and sink further and further into debt—debt, by the way, that the Chinese already own!
Now, don’t take my word for it that high-speed rail is a colossal waste of government money. Writing in The Washington Post, economic columnist Robert J. Samuelson notes that rail travel will always lose money. Amtrak has already eaten up $35 billion in federal subsidies, and does little to remove congestion from our roadways, and doesn’t provide for cheap transportation. As Samuelson says, “High-speed rail would transform Amtrak's small drain into a much larger drain.” This, at a time when several state government are teetering on the verge of economic collapse, banks continue to fail, and the nation’s credit rating is sinking into the abyss.
But let’s not get derailed over the high-speed train proposal. Let’s look at the big picture. Now is the time for the government to pare back exactly as the American people have told them to do and are doing themselves. Now is the time for our representative leaders to grow up and ask what is necessary and what is a luxury, not to ask what can buy votes, because the government no longer has the money to buy them!
There’s a simple Christian worldview message here. And let me boil it down so even Congress can understand it. Excessive debt: bad. Living within our means: good.
Back in November, when many conservatives were rejoicing over the landslide congressional elections and many liberals were wringing their hands, I worried out loud that not much would change on Capitol Hill: that the spending would continue, that the earmarks and payoffs would chug along with a full head of steam.
Folks, we made a lot of noise last fall, and then when the elections are over, people fall quiet and let the politicians do their work. No! They’ve got to hear from us, because the train is leaving the station, and the destination is national insolvency.