Friday, July 27, 2012

The Amazing Google Car vs. Scandal-Plagued High-Speed Rail

I recently took a ride in Google’s experimental driverless car. An engineer drove us to a certain spot, then took his hands off the wheel, his feet off the pedals, and flipped a switch. From there, the car drove along a pre-programmed route completely on its own based on radar, GPS, and other data. This incredible vehicle navigated complicated intersections and four-way stop signs without a hitch. It stopped for pedestrians and avoided parked cars on narrow streets while stunned onlookers snapped pictures. According to the engineers, this technology, which they hope to put on the market in the next few years, could significantly reduce road accidents, allow more cars onto the existing road infrastructure, and shorten travel times.

This breakthrough innovation is a testament to the ingenuity of American business. It stands in stark contrast to government planners who have an inexplicable, romantic attachment to trains. Take California’s extravagant high-speed rail project, whose initial cost estimate has already doubled to $68 billion, while many observers forecast a final cost as high as $100 billion. Recall that “green energy” enthusiasts championed China’s high-speed rail system as a model for our own – until a horrific high-speed rail crash in eastern China killed around forty people. That followed a slew of safety scandals and audits that revealed widespread corruption in China’s high-speed rail project. We don’t hear so much about the glories of Chinese railways anymore, but California’s high-speed rail boosters march blindly forward, oblivious to the fact that the state can’t afford it. 
There’s a clear choice here between two visions: investing tens of billions of dollars we don’t have in a train project whose principal model is mired in scandal, corruption, and death, or asking the government to simply get out of the way and let the creative genius of the private sector blaze a trail into the future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Amid High Unemployment, Team Obama Brags About Government-Created Jobs

Two days ago, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released a report on the “economic contributions” it supposedly made to the nation last year. In an accompanying press release, the department claims it “contributed $18.75 billion to California’s economy in 2011 and supported 117,170 jobs.”

Sadly, $19 billion apparently isn’t enough money to secure a steady water supply for Central Valley farmers. Somehow, deliberately starving Californians of water didn’t make it into the DOI’s press release.

Mind you, the Department’s magnanimous “contribution” to California is just a drop in its giant bucket of government benevolence. Nationwide, the DOI says it “contributed $385 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 2 million jobs in 2011.”

Let’s pretend for a minute that the DOI did indeed “support” – whatever that means – more than 2 million jobs last year. This needs to be balanced against all the jobs suppressed by the Obama administration’s self-defeating energy policies. How many potential jobs were lost due to President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, his continued ban on energy drilling off the California coast and elsewhere, and his crusade to “bankrupt” – in his words – any company that builds a new coal plant?

This is not to mention the doomed jobs that won a last-minute reprieve when Congress rejected Obama’s cap-and-trade scheme – which may still be replaced by equally destructive EPA limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

And don’t forget about future job losses caused by Obama’s tax policies, including the huge ObamaCare taxes as well as his current drive to raise taxes on Americans making over $200,000, which would crush many small businesses.

Ironically, the smiley-faced DOI report was published just after we learned that U.S. unemployment topped 8 percent for the 41st straight month. It’s hard to believe the economy could be doing this badly when the DOI acts, in its own account, as a miraculous job-creating machine.