The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, May 15, 2015


The recent crash of an Amtrak train outside Philadelphia brought out the worst in some of our national politicians. Before all of the dead had been recovered, Democratic politicians indirectly blamed the GOP for the crash by suggesting that reductions in Amtrak subsidies had somehow short-changed safety. Never mind that subsidies topped $1.4 billion last year. With the current Democrat mindset, it's impossible to spend enough taxpayer money.

The Dems also implied that more spending on infrastructure (in this case business subsidies for Amtrak, which are not infrastucture improvements) would have prevented the crash. So in their view not only is the GOP far too tight with money, the current majority party is also uncaring about the safety of railroad passengers.

Within 24 hours it was learned that the train was going into a curve at 100 miles per hour (well above the recommended speed). But the din for more spending continued. Both Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, among many others, castigated Republicans for cutting Amtrak's budget.

That's an interesting position, given that Barack Obama had a chance in 2009 to make a major impact by dedicating hundreds of billions in "stimulus" spending to infrastructure improvement. Instead, he opted to fritter away hundreds of billions on his core constituencies, undoubtedly buying votes, but doing virtually nothing to improve an economy that was in free fall.

Let's take a look back at 2009. Barack Obama, along with a Democrat supermajority in Congress approved an $819 billion stimulus package. According to The Washington Post at the time, the package included $637 billion in direct spending. $278.1 billion was spent on entitlement programs (unemployment compensation for 99 weeks, family assistance, medicaid, expanded food stamp programs, etc.), $91 billion on a potpourri of other social programs, with another $79 billion of state "stabilization"  that was used to balance state budgets that were stressed by federal mandates for social programs.

Only $46.1 billion—less than 8 percent of the stimulus—was spent on infrastructure. That would be the same infrastructure that Democrats now complain doesn't have adequate governmental support. When you look at all the numbers associated with the stimulus, almost 70 percent of the money was spent on programs that resulted in the making people even more dependent on government (e.g., foodstamps, social welfare, unemployment compensation). Only 8 percent was spent on projects that would have benefited taxpayers and the economy long term (e.g., road, bridges, ports, airports, railroad lines).

Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters had a real opportunity to improve infrastructure at a time when such improvements would have resulted in high paying jobs and tangible benefit to taxpayers. Yet now, they complain that our infrastructure is a mess. They're right about that, but they had a once in a lifetime opportunity to change it six years ago, and they chose to go a different way.