If you haven’t seen this video explaining Obama’s budget cuts and the “Big Number Problem” we humans have, you really need to. This is what’s wrong with government spending to begin with. People simply don’t grasp the scale.
So the administration has rolled out its high speed rail plan. Perhaps not suprisingly, it look very similar to the old crappy rail system.
The old joke is that trains give you all the discomfort of airline travel, but in six times the time. The rail plan calls for trains to travel 100 miles per hour, so the joke should be revised to four times.
The fact is, trains are a great idea in a country the size of Japan, France or Britain, that you can backpack across in a day. They suck, just a little bit, for travel across a country 3000 miles wide. Why take a high-speed train that gets you from LA to NY in two days when you can fly and be there in 5 hours?
High-speed trains would be a better idea for high traffic commuter corridors. As an example, look closely at the map and you’ll notice you still can’t travel North. There is no connector between Oklahoma and Kansas City, or anywhere in Georgia up through Kentucky, Tennessee and into Indiana.
You can’t get from Albuquerque to Denver, Denver to Phoenix, Phoenix or Albuquerque to Salt Lake City, or any of those cities to anywhere in Texas.
If you are a salesman in the southwest, you can get to Chicago faster than you could run there, that’s true. Chances are most of your travel will still be by air, and flying short distances within your region, though.
It looks to me like someone went to Amtrak and said, “If you could go to all the same places using the same shitty routes, but do it marginally faster, what would that look like?”
Congrats, guys. You batted their answer out of the park.
About a year and a half ago, I posted on the ridiculousness that is the Graduate School, USDA.
[S]urely education initiatives would fall squarely under the Department of Education, right? After all, the department name kind of makes that obvious, doesn‚Äôt it?
Not to the guys at the Department of Agriculture, apparently. They operate the USDA Graduate School. ‚ÄúHey‚Äù, you may be saying, ‚ÄúThis must be like the DOE thing. There‚Äôs a logical explanation, right?‚Äù
Not that I can find. If this were some sort of program to teach subsidized farmers how to not grow corn, I could understand it. If it were a program to teach failed farmers how to do other things, I could get that to. Instead, this project seems to be a giant community college for anyone living in Washington, DC that wants to learn such critical life needs as: Creating a Podcast; Conversational French; Mushroom Identification; and Screenwriting.
In the nearly 18 months since, I have received the occasional e-mail or comment from people either chastising me for taking issue with such a noble program or, more recently, asking further questions about it. This comes from a note I received today.
Hi Turk! I came upon your USDA Grad School posts by a google search. Ironically, I was trying to do research on whether they are actually affiliated with the USDA or not. Just for background, the reason that I was trying to find this out is that government agencies can purchase many things tax-exempt at a state/local tax level in the state of [redacted], as states are
not permitted by the US Constitution to tax the US Government. However, [redacted] law does allow for the taxation of private universities from out of state. Naturally, they want to be tax-exempt as a government agency despite not receiving any funding as a government agency.
The author of this note cites a Washington Post article in which the Graduate School extols the virtue of not being funded by the USDA, and yet they tout the fact that the governing board is appointed by (you guessed it) the Secretary of Agriculture. So “funded by” and “controlled by” are two different things. Here are the kickers from that WaPo piece.
“We’re a self-financing organization,” Jerry T. Ice, the school’s executive director, said in an interview. “The folks that work at the graduate school are not federal employees.”
… The school has a staff of 300, an annual budget of more than $60 million and a governing board whose 17 members are appointed by the secretary of agriculture. (emphasis mine)
Sixty million dollars? And yet they want to skip taxes in the states in which they operate? They want to use a technical loophole to claim government affiliation for the purpose of avoiding obligations that apply to every “actual” college, but they want to profess their independence from such groups for the purpose of justifying their existence.
OMG! This is infuriating. It was bad enough when I thought this was simply a ridiculous holdover from some bygone era of retraining milk maids to use typewriters, but this has gotten absurd.
If there is, as the WaPo piece argues, some legitimate good that comes from this school, fine. In that case, get rid of the appointed board, let private companies bid for the right to run it, and privatize what should be a private entity. There is no compelling national interest in this program being run by USDA (or not run, depending on which argument you buy). Spin it off. Make it a commercial entity and let it pay taxes to the government rather than skipping out on its financial obligations while claiming exemption.