Government spends millions to promote another inefficient transportation program… Yay!

There is an innovative bike sharing program in Washington D.C. which manages to be both inefficient and expensive so of course the government will now spend millions of dollars to subsidize the program.

As reported in the Washington Times article D.C. bike-sharing program crippled by own success:

This summer, the city’s innovative bike-sharing program has been crippled by its own success when it comes to commuting during rush hour, with bike racks completely empty — or just as often, completely full, making it impossible to drop off a bike.

“Are you going to take one of these?” pleads Jeff Menzer as he props up a bike next to a full station. Several other Bikeshare members already have shaken their heads at the sight of no empty slots and churned toward another station some 10 blocks away. “I was only going five blocks, and now I’ll have to make an eight-block walk.”

Only a government bureaucrat would think spending millions of dollars to support this program is a good idea. It is a perfect example of the brilliant thinking that has driven our nation to the verge of bankruptcy.

Any person in D.C. could buy their own bike for less than a hundred dollars, ride it wherever they wish for free, park it for free and have it waiting for them anytime they need it. That simple, cost effective and efficient program fosters self reliance and requires no government spending. So of course the government must take nearly 2 million dollars from taxpayers to support a system that is inefficient and expensive.

According to the article the bike club only has 15,000 members but the federal government is going to spend $1.9 million to expand the system. At that price the feds would be better off just buying every member a bike. It would be more efficient and save the taxpayers half a million dollars!

Crisis caused by income equality or government intervention?

There is a thought provoking interview with Raghuram Rajan in the December issue of Money magazine. Mr. Rajan is one of the few economists that warned our current financial crisis was coming and the article is primarily about Mr. Rajan’s theory that the current crisis is caused by income inequality:

“In the 1980s we saw a widening of income inequality. Typically the political reaction to that is to redistribute wealth. But in the ’80s and ’90s there was a sense that we’d had too much redistribution, too much welfare. So you had to find something else, and housing fit the bill for both political parties.

The Democrats thought it was wonderful to support home ownership for the poor, their natural constituents. The Republicans figured property owners would eventually vote Republican.”

Mr. Rajan then goes on to explain how the political issue of income inequality led the United States federal government to create the current crisis with their attempts to cure income inequality. I see a great deal of truth in what Mr. Rajan says but I would like to point out one crucial difference in how I view the problem.

It wasn’t income inequality that caused the current economic crisis. The direct cause of the crisis was the political response to income inequality. The difference is subtle but completely changes the diagnosis of the problem and if we misdiagnose the problem it is impossible to come up with the correct solution.

If income inequality is to blame for our current economic crisis then the federal government could prevent future crises by eliminating income inequality. In that case the the solution would be for the federal government to continue various forms of political intervention in the hope of solving income inequality. Of course Marxism and Socialism are two examples of such attempts and their results have been devastating.

On the other hand, if the current economic crisis was actually caused by clumsy political responses to income inequality we need to look for a different kind of solution. Maybe we could start by having politicans recite the Law of Unintended consequences: “An intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes”. Then we could change the oath of office to “First, do no harm”. 

The interview with Mr. Rajan can be found online at

In which yadda yadda yadda … MARTA

I continue to address the points raised by Paul in our discussion of MARTA:

Commenter:  “the voters themselves approved both the construction of MARTA and the 1% sales tax to maintain MARTA. Fulton and DeKalb voters chose to support MARTA, so I stand by my assertion that it is in no way a “drain” on taxpayers.”

Response:  I see no connection between the fact that voters approved the 1% sales tax in 1971 and your assertion that the tax is not a drain on today’s taxpayers. The fact that voters approved the tax makes it legal but it has no bearing on the fiscal soundness of that vote 40 years later.

Commenter: “In addition, it is not a “$350,000,000″ cost for taxpayers”

Response: You are right. MARTA will not cost taxpayers $350 million in 2010. According to MARTA’s fiscal year 2010 budget (available online) they project $476,932,780 in revenue from taxpayers. I had completely forgotten about the money coming from the federal government in addition to the sales tax. Thank you for pointing that out.

Commenter: “You quoted Beverly Scott, that she would “need a one-cent sales tax in the eight metro counties outside the Perimeter, plus 65 percent of an additional penny tax in Fulton and DeKalb just to keep MARTA running as it is.” In fact, this is the very plan that Republican Governor Perdue, as well as the Atlanta Regional Commission (sp.), support.”

Response: Governor Sonny Perdue’s plan is not being portrayed as an additional MARTA tax. The Governor says he is proposing another 1% tax on Georgia taxpayers as a solution to all of the transportation problems here in the state. Do you really expect voters in Gwinnett and Cobb Counties to approve an additional 1% sales tax on themselves to support a transportation system that doesn’t even serve them? And the extra tax won’t solve our transportation problems in Fulton and DeKalb Counties if it will barely keep MARTA “running as it is”. Now is the time for Metro Atlanta voters to find out the truth so we can vote on the tax increase intelligently.

Commenter: “We already have by far the lowest tax rates of any developed country.”

Response: Your statement is false. The United States does not have “by far the lowest tax rates of any developed country.” You can see for yourself at this link: If you have any evidence to support your claim please provide it.

Commenter:  “the majority of taxpayers in this two-county area are supportive of MARTA.”

Response: We will find out how supportive they are when the voters are asked to double their MARTA sales tax as part of Sonny Perdue’s transportation plan. A tax increase of 600 million dollars in metro Atlanta may not go over as well in this economy as it did in 1971.

I don’t have the energy to address the “equity” issue of MARTA tonight so I will break for now and pick up at this point later.

In which I respond to the towering genius of rude commenter Paul, part III

This post is a response to a commenter on my earlier post, Public transportation, solution or problem? You can see the original post and the comment in its entirety here:

Commenter: “As far as tax payer subsidies, who do you think pays for the roads you drive on? Billions and billions of dollars are spent on road infrastructure, and you’re not complaining about that. The 14th st bridge project alone cost over $100,000,000… just for the fixing of one bridge over the highway.”

Response: Thank you for raising this point. Proponents of MARTA often try to equate the cost of public transportation with the cost of building roads but let me be clear, the two things are completely different and to compare them shows a lack of objectivity.

We all pay for roads because they are a basic component required for our society to function. Every human in the United States depends on a roadway system. A woman can walk to the grocery store but the food gets there on a truck.  A man may not have a job but his unemployment check was delivered on a road. A person might take MARTA to Starbucks but there wouldn’t be any coffee without roads. Comparing roads to MARTA is like comparing water to arugula.

I agree with your assertion that road construction is often too costly but that simply illustrates the point I made earlier. Governments and their dependent agencies are inefficient delivery systems and should be tasked with the fewest responsibilities possible.

Commenter: “In addition, study after study by the CDC and Universites have shown the benefits of public transit. Atlanta has a high obesity rate and one of the highest asthma rates in the country, all of which are are tied to the automobile lifestyle. In fact, we have previously lost Federal highway funding because our air quality was so bad that it violated EPA standards.”

Response: It is easy for a person to claim validity by citing “study after study” but it is impossible to determine the veracity of the claim or the study without a specific attribution. I would like to point out that the CDC and the EPA are not independent, objective organizations. Both the CDC and EPA depend on federal funding for their livelihood and as such are political instruments.

That concludes my response to commenter Paul. I am glad that he took the time to comment because this is an important issue to the future our state. In the next few years Georgia is going to face increasingly difficult budgetary decisions and we will all have to make some tough choices. If you have anything to add to what Paul and I have written please feel free to leave a comment but play nice or it may not see the light of day.

Fat Police?

The Japanese government requires “re-education” for men whose waists are more than 33.5 inches?

One of the problems with the Obamacare bill is that once the government is responsible for our health insurance they wil be able to justify garbage like this.

Well they can have my bacon when they pry it away from my cold, dead hands…