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Amidst all the uproar about “corporations” buying elections, comes this from the ever interesting Randy O’Toole:

Just in time to influence the November election, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has granted $2.5 billion for high-speed rail to several states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan. Underscoring the political nature of the grants, the announcements were not made by the Federal Railroad Administration, which doesn’t mention them on its web site.

Instead, LaHood phoned major politicians (all Democrats), who then announced the grants to the media. A formal announcement is expected on Thursday. Until then, announcements indicate that:

  • California received $902 million
  • Florida $808 million.
  • Iowa and Illinois received $230 million for a conventional-speed Amtrak line between Iowa City and Chicago.
  • Michigan received $150 million for a high-speed rail line on the vital Dearborn-to-Kalamazoo corridor.
  • Connecticut received $121 million to improve rail speeds between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, MA.
  • Virginia received $45 million to plan a high-speed rail line from Washington to Richmond.
  • Minnesota received $40 million to renovate the St. Paul Union Depot.
  • New York received $18 million for rail upgrades in the Syracuse area.

Aside from the rotten politics here, I’d love to see the business plans and cost-benefit analyses applied (you know, that science that the nutty right wingers deny and reject) to determine which projects to fund, or to even fund at all. What kind of a “return” are we getting on these “public goods?” What is the cost per ton of carbon reduced from these projects? How do these stack up with other uses for this money? What are the likelihoods of success? I am sure all of those will be forthcoming on an easy to navigate, highly transparent website. If one exists, please direct me to it, and I will post the summary of all of the CB studies for you to consider.

UPDATE: I found the following germane to my question above:

A monthlong leadership course at the Ivy League university costs taxpayers more than $18,000 per employee. That’s more than twice what the average public university charges for tuition and fees, excluding room and board, for an entire year, and enough to pay the same charges for a semester and a half at the average private university.

Government and school officials say that’s what it costs to train executives. And it’s what’s being paid by top companies, which compete with government agencies for talent.

But the Obama administration acknowledges that nobody’s in charge of figuring out whether the government is getting the best deal possible, or even whether the training is worth the money.

The Office of Personnel Management, the government’s human resources department, told Grassley in a letter that federal regulations leave it up to individual agencies to select training.

“As a result, OPM does not evaluate individual agency programs for cost effectiveness or impact,” John Berry, the office’s director, wrote.

3 Responses to “A Novel Interpretation of the Citizens United Decision”

  1. Harry says:

    The Iowa City to Chicago high speed bullet train is vital. I will cut the time, paying boredom dividends. It will pay off if they hook on two large well-stocked parlor cars.

    Justice would be served if Iowa senators and congressmen had to get on that train every weekend after their flight to O’Hare and a cab to Union Station. They could be allowed to leave Thursday morning and come back Tuesday afternoon.

  2. Harry says:

    Also, the New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield Railroad sounds like a much better idea than the New York, New Haven, and Hartford.

    Add a big club car and a Pullman or two.

  3. Harry says:

    Sophisticated folks usually think of OPM as other people’s money. Sophisticated. The root of that word is Sophist.

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