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Obama Spends $47B on Fast Train to Nowhere

by Keith Koffler on February 15, 2012, 3:33 pm

President Obama’s budget includes $47 billion for a six-year high speed rail building program whose only certainty of success will be in its ability to raise the deficit and establish a brand new magnet for subsidies and waste.

The effort is part of an attempt to mimic China, which apparently is now the Gold Standard country for economic policy. China is building lots of Bullet Trains, lining the pockets of corrupt officials and charging ticket prices no one can afford.

But even the Washington Post, not known as a rabid hive of Obama criticism, has torn into his campaign to get people out of safe, private sector-owned airliners and into publicly subsidized Bullet Trains.

In a July editorial, the Post wrote that a terrifying accident in which one Chinese Bullet Train shot into another and killed more than three dozen people was evidence of the futility of the project.

For months, it has been increasingly obvious that China’s shiny new high-speed rail system is not the triumph of national planning that Beijing or Western admirers claimed. The Chinese government this year fired top rail officials for alleged wrongdoing , an implicit recognition that corruption and debt plague the project.

The only mystery is why people in the West who should have known better looked at high-speed rail in China and saw a model for the United States — instead of an accident waiting to happen.

And then in December, a piece by Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher detailed America’s own failed experiment in central planning.

According to the report, the first leg of California’s futuristic network of Bullet Trains runs from nowhere to nowhere out in California’s farm country, instead connecting major population centers.

Spiraling cost estimates and eroding political and public support now threaten a project crucial to a 21st-century vision of train travel that President Obama promised would transform U.S. transportation much as interstate highways did more than a half-century ago.

The estimated cost of the rail network has tripled from earlier estimates, to nearly $100 billion. Planners are at a loss to say where they will get the bulk of the money needed to complete it. And the completion date for the 800-mile system has been pushed back from 2020 to 2033.

Obama set a goal of providing 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. But that lofty vision is yielding to the political gravity generated by high costs, determined opponents and a public that has grown dubious of government’s ability to do big things.

Virtually none of the projects has gotten off the ground, and the one that has is in trouble.

None of which has stopped our own Politburo from forging ahead, eager to keep pace with the geniuses in Beijing.

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ol gator February 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Obambo’s Gravita is really nodda ya’ll !
Any political capital he had has been long gone.. Everyone knows but his
ego wont let him see it ….

Wigglesworth February 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

How about a high speed oil pipeline Mr President?

James Crawford February 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

The Chinese bullet train might make economic sense for China which has very large, densely populated, urban corridors where like departure points and destinations are close together. However; wherever distances exceed a few hundred miles, aircraft are not only faster but more energy efficient. In both the airplane and high speed rail, energy is expended to overcome aerodynamic resistance. The much higher speeds of aircraft require far more power than conventional trains which is why trains can be more energy efficient. However; once you push train speeds much past a hundred miles per hour, a train slogging it’s way through dense sea level air requires far more energy than an airliner flying through much thinner air above 30,000 feet. The high speed rail makes sense only when travel distances are short.

Doug Rose February 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Ooooops……the train was going so Fast it just passed me by,now I’m stuck walking !

Star February 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm

The train from DC to NY makes sense–plenty of people ride it and it’s city center to city center–but this arrangement is not always the case. Many trains require a car to get to the train, then another to get to the final destination.

Sadie February 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Not often you can set a news article to music …

He’s a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

William February 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm

We really could come up with a song for this.

Busted flat in Washington / Waiting for a bullet train / I was feeling about as downgraded as our credit…


I’m spending / On a bullet train / You’ll never / See that cash again…

Susan February 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Love it Sadie and William! You two are on to something.

Sadie February 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Susan, I am not onto anything new – No Where Man is an old Beatles tune and the following lyrics are from U2. Who knew they were writing for the future.

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got

Dewayne February 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm

This would have built over 6 Keystone Pipelines.

Mike C February 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

one can only imagine the cost overruns.
as far as learning from other mistakes, Spain made a poignant point to our CENTRAL PLANNERS about the futility and waste concerning wind projects.

Susan February 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm

His pie in the sky utopian idea to get all those ozone spewing SUV’s off the road and force us all to ride to work in sardine cans, while enriching his crony capitalist friends who shower him with campaign donations.

If he can tell us what insurance product we must purchase, how much longer before he tells us what form of transportation we must use?

DeniseVB February 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I give up….

This guy has no clue how to lead, America is the Whitney Houston to Obama’s Bobby Brown.


srdem65 February 15, 2012 at 5:04 pm

The only ‘bullet train’ I would support is the one that goes from the Mexican border to the Canadian border with no stops inbetween, and deadheads back to Mexico.

JimK February 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Sarah Palin named them well “Bullet trains to bankruptcy”.

barkley pontree February 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm

My dad worked for the Rock Island for about 35 years. Big rail fan guy. Do you want to know a secret? Railroads NEVER made money on passenger trains. Even back in the 20′s and 30′s, most of the trains lost money. But the rails ran them in exchange for land rights and such. And during the 50′s, while the government built highways for trucks and airports for planes, the railroads were forced to continue to run passenger trains that were losing millions.

There are some runs, NY to DC, that make money today. The rest are losing money every time they leave the station. High speed rail won’t make a difference. You can hop on SW and get just about anywhere in the country now for under 200 bucks. I love trains, but sinking billions of dollars on high speed rail is a waste of money. Most of Amtraks passengers today are not going from Chicago to Denver, but are getting on in Galesburg to ride to Omaha or something like that. High speed rail won’t be making those stops.

But, who cares. Dropping our nukes from 5000 to 300 will mean it won’t matter in 10 years anyways.

Shofar February 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm

What is amazing to me is that Obama is wanting to emulate the Chinese model, first it is the failed idea of bullet trains, what will be next? Building ghost towns like China is?

Perhaps it is the WH’s idea to tear down Detroit, Gary, Youngstown, OH, and other cities that have become failures of liberal ideology, and build America’s ghost towns. It would make work for the unions, and give “new life” to America’s dying cities. It will cost only trillions and trillions of dollars, but after all if it is good for the Chinese, it must be good for America.

Robin H February 15, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I saw one of those videos about the ghost towns. It’s really sad. But what’s worse is that the rest of the world believes them when they say their economy grew by 8% or whatever numbers they make up. China supplies us with almost everything. If our economy is in the tank so is theirs! No one over there has any money to buy the quantity of goods we buy here. Only those living in the cities even have indoor plumbing and cooking facilities. It’s a bare bones existance that does not support what they claim.

Mike C February 16, 2012 at 9:49 am

Personally, I like the fact the Chinese put their refrigerators in their living rooms to showcase it as a beautifully elegant piece of furniture.

blondie February 15, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Just in case you all weren’t aware,the Almighty One says the reason gas prices are going up is because the economy is doing well! Says that means demand for oil is up.He says,so it must be

Even though everything I’ve heard is that demand is down.
Does he believe his lies or is he certifiably nuts?

Sadie February 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Does he believe his lies or is he certifiably nuts?

Decisions, decisions … c) both

Anonna February 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Obama aside, isn’t it obvious that we need a low-speed railroad network? The ability of rich people to live in one city and work in another benefit few of us. The ability for the people of small town to travel to events and libraries and stores in other small towns would benefit many and cut down on the use of cars. We could visit other towns, the people of other towns could visit us for a reasonable price and at a reasonable speed that included stops at small towns along the way.

When I lived in an urban center there was such a railroad. Of course, in the intererst of employing as few people as possible the train stations that once held a station master and family in an upstairs apartment became an empty building with an electronic ticket machine – and a great place to be mugged. So we would have to pay attention to what makes public transportation safe and not just cheap.

I hope that we can restore our great railway network — but looking to China and its shiny high-speed deadly toys is not a good idea.

blondie February 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I agree. I love traveling by train. I live in upstate NY and enjoy taking the train into NYC. Its fine when I’m by myself,but to go with my whole family,its too expensive and cheaper to drive.(unless gas prices continue to go up).
I wish they could do something to make it more affordable.

Star February 15, 2012 at 7:22 pm

DC is getting street cars–did you hear that? Back to the future. We were promised flying cars–let’s see ‘em.

Sadie February 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm
Star February 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

Just checked–no quarter mill. Poo.

Susan February 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm

So is San Antonio. Chances are the project will never get off the ground. If it does, it will probably cost 4 times more than originally budgeted.

AFVET February 16, 2012 at 10:49 am

So is Cincinnati, even though it was voted down at the polls.

Jack February 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Mr. O with a train, a pick up (no go electric sh…) dreams of my papa, Mooch lady mama, the prison (gitmo) all it just sounds to me like a poor parody of the perfect country and western song of Steve Goodman as he sings it like ABBA’s money, money, more now that he is courting the rich Chinese guy for a few trillion dollars more.

Knothead February 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

“Bullet” Trains, hmmm, sounds like some kind of uncivil use of hateful words, especially on this time of healing.
Obama ist König der Welt.

Star February 16, 2012 at 11:15 am

I would love to say my Prius stalled towing the Volt to the shop, but we have not had a car in years–and this is in Phoenix, where everyone has some kind of vehicle. I hitch a ride to the store in sis’s Infiniti sometimes or we walk, or in my case, hobble… Just make it happen…

Lanie February 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Socialist’s believe the sacrifice of some people is necessary in order to realize the “greater good”.

Jim Loomis February 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Terribly irresponsibe to repeat someone else’s nonsense, such at the California high-speed train will “run from nowhere to nowhere”. Note, please, that this is consistent with other arguments put forth by opponents of this project, arguments that have either been proven false or consist of simply snarling that it’s a “boondoggle”. The fact is, high-speed rail has been successful everywhere else in the world — in areas of similar size with similar populations.

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