There's two ways to look at high-speed rail in this country:
Much higher speed than now: relatively cheap and easy.
Really high-speed like Europe: not cheap and not easy.
We may not know just what we are gonna get until the Feds dish out the $4 B put aside this year.
The fact is that dozens of city pairs, like St Louis-Kansas City, could benefit from much higher speed service than now, and for not so much money per mile or per route.
But few routes are slam-dunk obvious candidates for multi-billion investments in true HSR.
The State of Virginia thinks that a few hundred million could make the stretch from D.C. to Richmond an extension of the Northeast Corridor, with trains running hourly at Acela-level speeds, a mere 80 to 125 mph. Virginia's DoT thinks that getting the trip from Richmond to D.C. down to 90 minutes or less would result in a huge increase in passenger train traffic. To do that they'll need to add triple and quadruple tracks to right of way that not so long ago was single tracked, and they'll need some new bridges. Then the route will need to be electrified to avoid changing locomotives in Washington. Eventually the volume of traffic will require a costly new bridge and/or tunnel into D.C.'s Union Station. When all is said and done that will STILL not be up to the European level of service. But it will simply blow away the figures for trip time, frequencies, and total passengers on what today is called service on this Amtrak route.
We can do this. And we can make similar upgrades on routes like Chicago-Detroit, Tampa-Orlando-Miami, Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati, Cheyenne-Ft Collins-Denver-Colorado Springs-Pueblo, NYC-Albany-Rochester-Buffalo-Toronto, and elsewhere.
On the other hand, bringing true high-speed rail and a two-hour trip between NYC and D.C., for example, could cost us like building the Chunnel that linked Paris and London (and went bankrupt). Indeed it would require a new tunnel under the Hudson River, for say, $5 to $8 billion. And new tunneling in Baltimore, building several new bridges, adding new tracks through Maryland, and more and more and more. I'm not sure myself that it's worth it to aim for true HSR on the NEC, at least not yet.
We'll probably see almost all the funding in this term go to projects like Seattle-Portland. There the tilting trains used on the Cascades service already carry more passengers than planes between the two cities. An estimated $500 or $600 million of track improvements can cut the trip time from 5 hours to 4 or even 3 hours or so. Add more departures to the schedule to grab business travelers. We'll see the rail passenger count on that route, and others like it, soar.
Then we'll have a better idea of the likely real level of demand for true HSR in this country. Then we can run the numbers and see if true HSR is worth the big investment. Meanwhile we'll all benefit where existing service is made much faster than now. That is gonna happen.
My readings of the pre-Columbian empires suggests life there was "poor, nasty, brutish and short" for almost all their subjects long before the Europeans set their superstructure of rule atop the existing social pyramid. In fact I'd argue that the traditional Aztec/Inca political model has helped hold back the development of Mexico and Peru in particular. Of course, the Spanish Empire and the Roman Catholic hierarchy did next to nothing to teach democracy, entrepreneurship, respect for individual rights ...
I'd say that the (upper) class attitude that you report came out of the closet in the US under Bush. Indeed, George Bush personified the attitude. He told a prof at Harvard B School that he believed that the poor were poor because they were lazy, and that Social Security was Socialism. His public policy, to exept the rich from estate taxes--indeed, from almost any taxes-- while letting the weight fall on people who work, was banana republic conservatism, think, pre-Castro Cuba's Batista regime.
But more than Bush, our national fad of gated communities and the glorification of wretched excess and the ostentatious display of (now we know it was fake) wealth on TV and in the slick paper magazines ...
Well, now we have a Depression and I certainly hope that we can hope to enjoy the falling of our mighty. Maybe even a Lula to help to level our class differences.
Don't make us guess which are the 10 states with same-day voter registration and higher voter participation.
I'm betting that at least of 8 of the 10 voted for Obama, too. But where's the list of the enlightened ones? Lessee, North Carolina for sure ... OK, OK I'll guess, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Florida ... North Dakota ...
Which states are most against it? Like, which states voted for Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrat Party?
I've visited Ghana too, and this past summer I hosted a friend from Ghana on a visit to the US.
My friend is a great partisan of J.J. Rawlings. I had said that I most respected Rawlings for turning over power peacefully to Kufour after the election in 2000. But I could tell that my friend just didn't get it.
When he came to NYC, we went down to Washington, D.C. for a weekend. Then a friend offered to drive us out to Mount Vernon. Yes! At the museum and visitors' center they have serious coverage of how George Washington was offered the power and titles of 'President for Life' and even King, with a mannequen of our First President dressed in ermine robes wearing a crown. The exhibit did a fine job of teaching how Washington's refusal to accept the temptations of power had been part of the foundation of our democracy. And then my friend got it.
Now my friend is even more proud of J.J. Rawlings and compares him to George Washington. And that's good.
Greater Austin -- we also did well in the suburban, recently rural counties south and east of Austin, with Obama taking 48% of Hayes (San Marcos/Texas State), 47% of Caldwell, and 45% of Bastrop.
The Border needs general election turnout to surpass primary turnout, but the share was in our favor, 66% in El Paso, 69% in Hidalgo in the Lower Valley, 72% in Webb (Laredo), and our favorite, 78% in MAVERICK (Eagle Pass).
Obama will surely do better in Deep East Texas next time. He's black, you know, and that was a problem for some voters in the former Confederacy. But the Piney Woods, like the rest of the South, will get over it by 2012, or by 2009 from the current indications.
The closest states that we didn't win this time were Missouri (TBD) 50%, Montana 47%, Georgia 47%, North and South Dakota, South Carolina, and Arizona all at 45%, and Texas 44%.
In 2012 Texas will have the largest number of potential pickups of House seats, because of the added seats and redistricting stirring the big pot. So I suspect we'll get much more attention from the campaign to re-elect.
The model at hand is not the Weimar Republic and wheelbarrows full of worthless Deutschmarks.
The harrowing example we face today is the collapse of the Japanese real-estate-and-stock-market bubble around 1990. The Japanese are still in a prolonged recession that some will call a depression.
In such a deflationary collapse as theirs then and ours now, everyone tries to pay down debt, as they should, private citizens and corporations. But those actions reduce demand, leading to higher and higher unemployment and therefore less and less demand.
If the govt also tries to pay down debt, demand could collapse to the level where we will all be eating turnips we raise in the backyard and nothing more.
The government is the only entity that can borrow and spend -- or inflate and spend -- to keep demand from cratering totally. Govt demand can break the vicious cycle of deflation and allow a bottom to form, then growth to begin anew.
The Keynesian prescription for deflation and depression still applies -- deficit spending during hard times.
The problem is that there is another part of the Keynesian formula for moderating the business cycle: The govt should save during good times.
The Democrats in Congress and Clinton in the White House did bring the federal budget under control, and the deficit was falling rapidly in the late 90s.
The fanatical zealots of the Bush regime abandoned the prudent Keynesian course of reducing the deficit. Instead they went on a humongous bender of borrow and squander, tax cutting and war making, doubling the nation's debt in just 6 years.
But there is a time and place for everything, and this is the time for deficit spending. The govt can cut spending when private business begins hiring again.
Now, as for the form of the stimulus, that is another question. What many people need is jobs so they can pay their bills, not rebates to park in their savings accounts.
BTW A link for a look at the Japanese precedents:
I'm pretty good at geography. I can rattle off 20, 25, maybe 30 cities in Florida. But when you write about COUNTIES, without describing them somehow, "suburb of" or something, anything, then it's too much insider baseball for a reader from out of state. I changed channels. Click.
Mary Landrieu will be a better Democrat when she's not afraid of being the only Democrat left standing. Re-electing Cazayoux in Barton Rouge, picking up another House seat in Shreveport, (maybe a miracle in LA-01 or LA-07) and everything will change.
Surely it wasn't easy for her to be the state's leading Democrat while Dollar Bill Jefferson has been the most famous one. But as part of a Democratic majority in the Congressional delegation ... hey, don't we all feel better already!
And let her sit beside Mark Warner from VA, Kay Hagan from NC, and maybe Jim Martin from GA and Bruce Lunsford from KY. The Southern Senators as a group will be less threatened and less disappointing in the next session.
Apparently Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is protecting her bosom buddy, Repub sorority sister, Ileana Ros-Letinen again. The DCCC is pouring money into the races against the two other Cuban Mafia incumbents, but not a dollar for Annette Taddeo.
This is a disgraceful stab in the back to a hard working better Dem candidate and Debbie ought to be ashamed. She won't be forgiven by me, I remember stuff like this.
I'm no expert, but I think Obama can't transfer much or any. Money raised by the DNC can move around some, but not by Obama's campaign.
I hope the whole campaign finance law gets a hard fresh look next year. The public finance part got blown away by Obama, a good thing, but the rest of the structure is very creaky and needs a revamping.
The whole thing about the DSCC and DCCC (and their R counterparts) can advertise on behalf of a candidate but they can't "coordinate" the advertising message with the candidate or campaign. And that keeps politics clean how?