Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nathan Deal Cannot Be Trusted on Passenger Rail

So according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal has come out in favor of the regional transportation tax

That being said, the actual quotes from Deal given are a bit less than absolute commitment to build, with what seem to me like caveats in warning about expenses.

“The question always is, what is the priority, and where do you spend your money first,” he said. “Whether it’s light rail, heavy rail, passenger rail, whatever you call it, it’s expensive because of capital expenditures.”

Any new rail operation would also likely require subsidies to keep it afloat “and that’s difficult to do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working toward it.”

Never mind that Nathan Deal has to my knowledge not spent time arguing that we need to eliminate all of those expenditures for automobile transportation. Other than the vehicles themselves (which for automobiles are owned by people, which makes it different entirely from public transportation), 100% of operating expenses for roads come from taxes. And for that matter, we've been subsidizing vehicles via years and years of favorable legislation to (at least American-made) automobile manufacturing plants, even those made by non-American companies; we've given sweetheart deals to Asian companies to build plants in the South, all of this well before the auto industry bailout and cash for clunkers.

And of course, operating expenses for automobile transportation are also subsidized. Streetlights on highways, for instance. That electricity isn't free. Neither are traffic police. I would also say we have subsidized the cost of gasoline over the years with what have amounted to sweetheart deals on drilling on federal land/in U.S. waters. And last but certainly not least, we have massively subsidized parking those automobiles. Using land for parking lots is a major, major cost, and yet in so many places, one can park for free, and in many others, parking costs are under "market rate" for parking lots in that area, for various reasons. Of course, private companies also subsidize parking in addition to the government doing so. Still, those companies charge everyone higher prices to compensate for the loss from the free parking.

So let's not pretend the need for the government to provide operating subsidies and essentially 100% capital expense is qualitatively different from what we do for personal automobiles.

At any rate, given his past record, Nathan Deal cannot in any way be trusted on this.

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