Statements from Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation are, in a word, incredible. Incredible in the truest sense of the word – beyond credible. LaHood, echoing the position espoused by Thomas Friedman and Andy Stern, believes that the United States government could learn a few things in efficiency from China. In China, according to LaHood, wonderful things in public transport are happening because there is an autocratic regime that doesn’t have to bother to listen to citizens.
In his remarks, LaHood reveals the fundamental flaw of liberal economic policies. This is best summarized as an equation: more spending = greater progress. LaHood nicely sums of his thinking: “Two years ago, between 50 to 60 Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives to come to Washington to do nothing, and that’s what they’ve done and they’ve stopped any progress. Those people don’t have any vision about what the government can do. That’s been a real inhibitor in our ability to think outside the box and think big.”
In LaHood’s world, having the government direct and spend money is a de facto positive situation. We know this because high-speed rail is unprofitable in virtually every place it operates, including environments that are far more amenable to high-speed rail than the United States. It is the definition of irony for LaHood to use as his example of progress via government a piece of infrastructure that costs taxpayers billions of dollars for something they don’t want. Every prediction made about the costs and ridership of trains has been so wildly inaccurate (and always below the true cost and the true number of riders) that they cannot be taken seriously.
We also know that LaHood is simply unwilling, or unable, to understand that people do not agree with him. According to LaHood: “There’s no turning back on this. We’re not going to turn back. And you know why? Because that’s what the people want. That’s why… there’s no stopping high speed rail.” LaHood’s remarks are belied by the fact that clearly many people DO NOT want high speed rail. The evidence is those 50 to 60 Republicans who were elected by citizens who think the government is spending too much, as well as the governors of Wyoming and Florida who recognize the enormous expense that the taxpayers will incur if they allow high-speed rail to go forward. In LaHood’s mind, however, such objections are irrelevant. According to LaHood “Doing nothing is not acceptable. Don’t be coming here and telling me it’s not acceptable if you don’t have an alternative. It’s coming to California,” LaHood exclaimed. “All the studies show, if you build it they will come.”” Thus does he nicely sum up the liberal philosophy – it doesn’t matter if it’s cost-effective or serves the peoples’ needs, government must spend money and build things because it can and, because if it didn’t, people like Ray LaHood would be unable to justify their jobs and their power.