Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘boondoggle’

It’s not too surprising to learn that spending money on “high-speed” rail is foolish. And it’s hardly a revelation to learn that politicians over-promise and under-deliver when they push through these boondoggles.

My Cato colleague, Randall O’Toole, has written extensively about these money-losing white-elephant projects. But it’s not exactly shocking news that libertarians would resist wasteful government spending.

But it is stunning when establishment leftists admit that such programs are a mistake.

Here are excerpts from a column by Charles Lane, an editorial writer for the Washington Post. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Even folks at the Washington Post are recognizing (or at least beginning to recognize) that government is a giant sink-hole that squanders tax dollars and undermines prosperity.

Today, Liu Zhijun is ruined, and his high-speed rail project is in trouble. On Feb. 25, he was fired for “severe violations of discipline” — code for embezzling tens of millions of dollars. Seems his ministry has run up $271 billion in debt — roughly five times the level that bankrupted General Motors. But ticket sales can’t cover debt service that will total $27.7 billion in 2011 alone. Safety concerns also are cropping up.

…On April 13, the government cut bullet-train speeds 30 mph to improve safety, energy efficiency and affordability. The Railway Ministry’s tangled finances are being audited. Construction plans, too, are being reviewed.

Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a “moon shot” and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.

…China’s train wreck was eminently foreseeable. High-speed rail is a capital-intensive undertaking that requires huge borrowing upfront to finance tracks, locomotives and cars, followed by years in which ticket revenue covers debt service — if all goes well. “Any . . . shortfall in ridership or yield, can quickly create financial stress,” warns a 2010 World Bank staff report.

Such “shortfalls” are all too common. Japan’s bullet trains needed a bailout in 1987. Taiwan’s line opened in 2007 and needed a government rescue in 2009. …[T]he Beijing-Tianjin line, built at a cost of $46 million per mile, is losing more than $100 million per year. …On the whole, I’d say China should envy us.

Read Full Post »

There are very serious ways to save huge amounts of money from the defense budget, largely by making smarter choices about defining America’s national security.

This obviously involves high-profile decisions about whether it is smart to engage in nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it also involves what seem to be “gimme” choices about whether we should be spending tens of billions of dollars to maintain troops in places such as Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan.

And, sometimes, it’s just the simple fact that bureaucracies like to squander money. Here’s a $600,000 boondoggle that barely rises to the level of a rounding error in the Defense Department’s budget, but it is a nauseating example of how government wastes our money in genuinely spectacular ways. Every time some politician says we need to raise taxes, you should think of this piece of you-know-what and  say #*&@;^ No!

Here are the key passages from a U.S. News and World Report story.

A $600,000 frog sculpture that lights up, gurgles “sounds of nature” and carries a 10-foot fairy girl on its back could soon be greeting Defense Department employees who plan to start working at the $700 million Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. this fall. That is unless a new controversy over the price tag of the public art doesn’t torpedo the idea.

Decried as wasteful spending that will be seen by just a couple thousand of daily workers who arrive on bus shuttles, foes have tried to delay the decision, expected tomorrow, April 1. But in an E-mail, an Army Corps of Engineers official said that the decision can’t be held up because it would impact completion of the huge project.

…The Mark Center is one of the facilities that thousands of defense workers will be reporting to as part of the Base Realignment and Closure plan, or BRAC, that is shifting workers around Virginia and Maryland. The BRAC plan itself has been criticized as wasteful.

Read Full Post »

Like other forms of so-called stimulus spending, the money devoted to supposed ”green” energy programs has been a net drain on the economy. This is hardly a surprise, particular since the much-trumpeted Spanish experiment turned out to be a flop, destroying two jobs elsewhere in the economy for every green job created. But what is surprising is that the political crowd in Washington seems to be getting the message. The Washington Times reports that even the left if backing away from flushing more money down this hole.

Noticeably absent from President Obama’s latest economic-stimulus package are any further attempts to create jobs through “green” energy projects, reflecting a year in which the administration’s original, loudly trumpeted efforts proved largely unfruitful.

The long delays typical with environmentally friendly projects – combined with reports of green stimulus funds being used to create jobs in China and other countries, rather than in the U.S. – appear to have killed the administration’s appetite for pushing green projects as an economic cure.

…Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, said much of the green stimulus funding was “squandered.”

“Large grants to build green buildings don’t generate many new jobs, except for a few architects,” he said. “Subsidies for windmills and solar panels created lots of jobs in China,” but few at home.

…Despite the massive infusion of government funding in recent years, renewable technologies have captured only a tiny share of the energy market and remain heavily dependent on government funding to be viable. Because of the need to constantly renew government funding, private investors remain skittish about committing to new projects.

Read Full Post »

I think Viagra subsidies for sex offenders are an absurd example of government stupidity in America. I’m also amazed that European taxpayers are forced to pay for penile implants for bureaucrats at the European Commission. But I’m almost speechless to learn that British taxpayers are financing hanky-panky with prostitutes in Amsterdam for some disabled citizens. According to the Daily Mail, taxpayers across the pond also are paying for lap dances, though it’s unclear why some beneficiaries get deluxe ”full service” trips to foreign countries while others must make do with trips to local strip clubs. I have great sympathy for people who are disabled, and I certainly have no problem with them purchasing sexual services, but I agree with the guy from the Disability Alliance that this is not an appropriate role for government.

A ‘man of 21 with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers’ money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute.

His social worker says sex is a ‘human right’ for the unnamed individual – described as a frustrated virgin.

His trip to a brothel in the Dutch capital’s red light district next month is being funded through a £520 million scheme introduced by the last government to empower those with disabilities.

They are given a personal budget and can choose what services this is spent on.

The man’s social worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said his client was an ‘angry, frustrated and anxious young man’ who had a need for sex.

…The trip emerged in data from Freedom of Information requests which revealed that many councils are using the money from the government’s Putting People First scheme to pay for prostitutes, visits to lap dancing clubs and exotic holidays.

…Critics yesterday said the use of taxpayers’ money to fund sex trips abroad as ‘deeply worrying’.

In Greater Manchester and Norfolk, social care clients have used their payments for internet dating subscriptions.

…Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Alliance, said most people with disabilities did not want or expect the state to pay for sexual services. ‘Public bodies don’t exist to find people sexual partners,’ he said.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: