From Thomas Friedman's New York Times column:
In the past two weeks, I've taken the Amtrak Acela to the Philadelphia and New York stations. In both places there were signs on the train platforms boasting that new construction work there was being paid for by "the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," that is, the $787 billion stimulus. And what was that work? New "lighting" — so now you can see even better just how disgustingly decayed, undersized and outdated are the rail platforms and infrastructure in two of our biggest cities.
I take Amtrak to Philadelphia sometimes and I disagree with Mr. Friedman's premise that the Philadelphia station is decayed or undersized. It's a grand old building with soaring high ceilings.
But assume he's right: How did these Amtrak stations get so run down? They are run by the government. If Mr. Friedman wants to spruce them up, he should suggest turning them over to the private sector, and they might wind up as fancy as the Four Seasons.
But if the government is going to spruce them up, it should keep in mind that in doing so it's going to be taxing people who take the bus, or people who own airlines or work at airlines or bus companies, to subsidize a competing form of transportation. Where's the justice in that? Why should some guy who earns $40,000 a year and gets to Philadelphia from Washington by taking a $25 bus be taxed to subsidize the Acela ride of Mr. Friedman, who reportedly charges $75,000 for a single lecture, belongs to two country clubs, and who lives in a $9.3 million, 11,400 square-foot house? If Mr. Friedman doesn't like the way the Acela platform looks, let him take a limousine to Philadelphia from Washington, or a private jet, or let him hire someone to "update" the decor. Or let him avert his gaze. But don't tax me any more to deal with his aesthetic issues. I don't want to have to pay so that he doesn't have to be disgusted. I just don't agree that that is the role of government.