Thomas Sowell has a new column up about high-speed rail: "To talk glibly about spending more money on 'high-speed rail' when the national debt has just passed a milestone, by exceeding the total value of our annual output, for the first time in more than half a century, is world-class chutzpa."
And this: "Make no mistake about it, spending wins votes, and votes are the ultimate bottom line for politicians."
I actually think there's something of a change under way regarding "spending wins votes." It may be true for narrowly focused groups to which the spending is targeted, but on a broader level the voters are starting to wise up that it's their own money that the politicians are taking away from them and spending. It's complicated by the fact that to some degree it's not the voters' own money that the politicians are spending; it's money that the significant proportion of voters who don't pay any federal income tax are receiving from those who do pay federal income tax, or money that's being borrowed from China against a promise of repayment sometime in the future. When President Obama talks about high-speed rail, he talks of connecting 80% of Americans. If people saw it as just spending on connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles or Boston, New York, and Washington, it's be less popular. But Mr. Obama wants 80% of Americans to think this spending is going to benefit them.