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The Motive Behind High-Speed Rail

In the wake of mob violence, government shut-downs, absconding Democratic senators, death threats against Republicans and a breakdown of the democratic process in Wisconsin, a detached President Obama's only response was an endorsement of unions.

"I owe these unions," the President once confessed. How far would he be willing to go on union behalf, and how deep is his pro-union conviction? What other policies might have a union motive? Consider this report from Der Spiegel:

A crippling strike by train drivers in a dispute over wages caused havoc across Germany during rush hour on Thursday morning, with countless delays and cancellations. Around 800 drivers walked off the job for six hours between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m., leaving thousands of commuters struggling to get to work--and the dispute is threatening to become a long-term nightmare for travelers.

Communal transportation which leaves the public dependent upon (unionized) government workers surely empowers public employee unions. Conservatives have been pondering the motive for Obama's stubborn insistence on America's adoption of an inefficient, expensive and unwanted high-speed rail system. Perhaps Germany provides a clue.

H/t: James Taranto

Categories > Economy

Discussions - 7 Comments

That makes sense, but is horrible, too. The thing has BOONDOGGLE written all over it, but it will provide jobs for union workers.

The German model will probably not apply because most Americans will not bother with such a train.

I am beginning to wonder if I should think that Mr. Obama may fundamentally only know academic and inner-city machine-style politics--and is incapable of doing anything that does not follow those kinds of formula. May be unable to even fully grasp the existence of other kinds of ways (on instinctual and conceptual levels)--especially if they involve having to make one's own case instead of having the media reinforce already existing stereotypes and tropes.

A machine politician. Highly polished, highly refined, but at the end of the day a machine politician.

There is opportunity in that if true. Tremendous opportunity.

undermine the family, remove the automobile (break the word), makes it easier to promote the state

@ The Federalist and Ken Thomas, sure but there is no such thing as "The Motive", this might be a motive and an improbable one at that. Actually whatever you are dumb enough to believe in support of the proposition becomes the "motive". Obama's allusion to the blank slate in the audacity of hope is the exact formula. Whatever conclusions, or hopes you reach for and believe will actually result from the policy, that is the "motive" Obama will sell back at you. So yes the media reinforces already existing stereotypes and tropes.

In fact conservatives attacking it as pro-union, might even spur union hopes. This is the Audacity of Hope, of course this doesn't mean conservative fears or union hopes are well founded. It simply means that this is a motive which attaches itself to the more technical policy implementation, that the actual engineers, lawyers and economists understand and implement better.

Also what would Burke say about modern day Germany?

What would any sensible human being say? It is a well run state, and its flaws hardly seem the end of the world. In fact by being more explicitly Tory, and focused on engineering and manufacturing, Germany is perhaps the most sensible and grown up nation in all of europe.

A world in which the human beings who are still in charge of the trains can't strike, would in fact be much darker.

Building trains gives nascent technological firms an ability to scale up production of components which may
brighten our future.

The motivation is mainly on the corporate capital investment side. Contractors, sub-contractors and subsidiaries who will charge risk premium for such jobs and then underbid others to evade legal mechanisms such as piercing the corporate veil when the companies that remain liable go bankrupt.

Attacking Obama as the Federalist does can only be accomplished rhetorically, you don't have a republican presidential candidate that himself does not employ roughly the same game.

Attacking Germany for economic failure and waste seems ridiculous!

In fact here is the real motive behind high speed rail.

National defense/economic dominance/crony capitalism.

Brought to you in part by the some of the same players, Halliburton, KBR, FLUOR, and GE all of which want more money to develop and market technologies so they don't fall behind the Germans/Siemens.

Germany after all did spend quite a bit of money building rail, but it doing so it set off a nascent boom in technological innovation as companies rushed to mass produce components necessary to do high speed rail right.

Siemens inked a 1 billion dollar deal to build 100 trains for the Chinese, it has a lot more deals underway. Of course KBR and GE also are getting in on the Chinese high speed rail love-fest, along with german names like Bombardier and Alstrom.

Given what we know about the GE+Obama relationship, it is fairly clear that GE wants to get its Evolution Series locomotives, the Model ES44C4 into as many markets as possible.

It has paid some lawyers and economists money to do a few twists and turns and come out with some favorable studies.

But the real question isn't just the bottom line to the government but also the corporate boon to the companies that supply the government. This is why we can't just bomb Iraq and hang Saddam, but we all have a duty to rebuild it. Halliburton, CAT and KBR say WINNING!

Why does Italy love Kadafi? Because they are stuck 1 Trillion, and are so to speak pot commited. Wisdom here.

A lot of buzz about the Chinese and how they plan their economy, but it is true they are stuck about 300 billion on high speed rail. Some big German, French and American names love it.

Sometimes I am convinced that a lot of Buzz about how good Iraq is comes from corporate interests who have captured major dollars in rebuilding it. Sometimes I am convinced that a lot of Buzz about China, and maybe some of the buzz I hear about Germany mainly comes from the same corporations selling the book. That is corporate interests want China to be big so that similar policies can be sold more easily in the US.

I think Obama is a pretty good guy, he is just having an impossible time sorting out not simply some of the bottom line objections, but also how these all end up relating to each other in the big picture.

You can say what you want, but the full force of evidence and a presentation made by GE, can be convincing.

What is clear when it comes to Obama is that he believes there are always projects with huge benefits to the whole society or at least perceived benefits (many of which are hard to quantify and account for in $$ terms) that are in itself very low or negative return-on-capital affairs. The classic one is basic education, the construction of roads, hospitals, sanitation etc., and what he means when he starts talking about the economy of the future is indirect corporate welfare thru spending on massive infrastructure projects that utilize the most modern methods and help provide economies of scale for unknown technologies.

I think Obama is a rather unimaginative machine politician. When on the ropes, his instincts encourage him to double-down, swimming to the deep end of the tank. Because he lacks Clinton's survival instincts, I seriously doubt he will be reelected in 2012. Of course, much depends on the lameness of the GOP candidate!

As for highspeed rail, it is the highest form of boondoggle I've seen in a decade or more: capital-intensive, expensive, centrally-coordinated, of questionable use or efficiency. I don't think Obama has ulterior motives here; for him, boondoggle IS high policy.

"When on the ropes, his instincts encourage him to double-down, swimming to the deep end of the tank."

Were you (are you) Palin's speechwriter? Let me guess, when he arrives at the deep end, he gives them a full-court press and then shifts into overdrive before calling their bluff? Or something...

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