China has 19,000 miles of high speed rail lines, and by high speed I mean
faster than anything in Japan or France. More than 50 cities in China are
now linked by high speed rail. And guess whose money paid for it all?
So America's infrastructure rots away because according to some folks we
can't afford to repair it or upgrade it, not if it means their taxes might
go up. Good thing they weren't around when Eisenhower was building the
interstate system, or we'd still be driving on two-lane gravel roads.
Urban rail systems in America disappeared in large part because after WWII
the automobile and petroleum industries saw far greater profits to be made
selling cars and buses and the fuel to run them, not because streetcars
weren't a good form of public transport.
And looking at how air travel is going these days, the idea of high speed
rail is starting to look pretty good. In recent years my wife and I have
elected to make 1,500 mile road trips rather than set foot in an airport,
and that was before air travellers had to choose between being groped or
Fuel prices are going to have the final say on this issue. When gas
eventually gets back to five (or ten) bucks a gallon the train is going to
be a lot more attractive at any speed. A lot of things happened because gas
was cheap, but the clock is ticking on that situation.
.. and in even greater part because a booming economy made cars both
plentiful and affordable, and people decided they preferred the freedom and
convenience of private transport to public transport.
Except for the hundreds of gigabucks -- that we don't have -- required to
build the infrastructure.
If gasoline becomes that expensive, high speed rail may become commercially
viable; if so, someone will see that there's money to be made, and build it.
The more likely outcome of $10/gallon gasoline, IMHO, is explosive growth in
electric cars and new technology for powering them (e.g. ultracapacitors
instead of batteries), with an accompanying increase in the construction of
nuclear power plants.
Sure, and because General Motors and other companies made a point of putting
streetcars out of business, even if they had to buy the companies running
them (using front companies) and replace streetcars with buses. At one time
America had over 1,200 electric light rail operations. GM alone converted
900 of these to buses. Of course the American fascination with the
automobile was part of the process, but it got a big push from companies
that wanted to sell cars and buses.
We can afford to build damn near anything the Pentagon says it needs, but we
can't afford to refurb the national rail system? We can give tax breaks to
the oil companies, but we can't afford high speed rail? We're still sending
foreign aid to *China* of all places, but we can't upgrade our own transport
systems? Something doesn't add up here.
On 2011-02-17 22:04:23 -0500, firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Miller) said:
True, Doug, but we fund the military because those vendors "own" the
pols, who in turn buy votes with jobs propped up by military spending.
As long as we can't afford bombs, wouldn't it make more sense to
instead build high-speed rail we can't afford, but which would become
an infrastructure asset remaining in our country, and which would
benefit us not only from the jobs provided, but from enhanced
Further, we've managed to piss off an awful lot of the world's
population by trying to blow 'em up or shoot 'em. Doubt high-speed rail
would anger many outside the US.
On 2011-02-17 17:30:09 -0500, email@example.com (Doug Miller) said:
In part, sure. Now, throw in good highway systems (think Interstate, et
al), Levittown(s), the GI bill, and pent-up consumer demand unleashed
after WWII. Result: the cities emptied, and work, school, and shopping
all became more remote from the home. The car became a necessity
because public ransportation either did not expand to meet new
realities, or was actively dismantled (a la Los Angeles).
Indiana at one time had an Interurban system that spanned the state,
meaning that a salesman could live in Columbus (an hour southest of
Indianapolis) and still easily call on customers in Lafayette (an hour
norhtwest of Indy). Or you could work in Indianapolis and live in Terre
Haute. (God knows why you'd want to do that!) Try either today without
Some predict a "new urbanism" with suburbanites fleeing back to the
city -- you can see it in Indianapolis, with luxury apartments and
condos being built along Indiana Avenue* in what was until not terribly
long ago a stable and historic Black community.
*Immortalized as Leroy Carr's "Shady Avenue," and home to music halls
featuring such luminaries as Wes Montgomery, Lionel Hampton, and yes,
James Hendrix as a backing musician -- his only Indianapolis appearance.
But WHO is going to pay for it? HOW are we going to pay for it?
Right after WWII, the United States had the only real, working economy
in the world. We built everything for everybody. We rebuilt other
nations so they could fend for themselves. We were bringing money
INTO this country hand over fist.
What is happening now? The money is pouring out of this country. How
does China pay for its high speed rail? By the money you and I pay
for all the freaking goods they produce and sell in places like Wal-
Mart, Home Depot, Best Buy and all those other stores. Because we, as
consumers, have demanded "the Chine Price" for so freaking long that
we have almost pushed manufacturing and other businesses that used to
bring money into this country out to places like China (especially
Another way China is getting money to build those things is from all
the freaking interest this country is paying them on the Federal bonds
they are buying from us. So to answer your question, it is really the
NEXT GENERATION of Americans who will be funding just about *every*
publicly funded project in China.
We could have "the China price" for US-made goods, except that business
has forgotten its intitial impetus. Used to be that a company was
started to provide a needed good or service. Not so today -- a
company's main purpose, at least for publicly-held companies, is the
"enhancement of shareholder value."
The economy -- buying and selling real goods adn services for real mony
-- has been replaced with the "financial economy", generating inflated
"value" for an asset. (How much air can you beat into a gallon of ice
cream before it becomes just air? Oh, sorry, you don't get a gallon
anymore -- the half-gallon has become something like 1.56 quarts,
before you even consider the added air.)
The final factor operating against a decent price for a US-made good is
executive compensation. The CEO makes 300, or 3,000 times the salary of
the working stiff? Till me how THAT makes us competitive, or,
ultimately, how we'll even be able to buy China's "China-priced" goods.
During WWII there was a secret government project to develop methods to
train "managers" to facilitate the ramping up of manufacturing for the
(still thriving) "war industry". Prior to that, company "management"
generally came up through the ranks, gaining a thorough knowledge and
understanding of the product, and the business, in the process.
Subsequently, and with the resultant advent of MBA programs (the basis
of which is that you really don't need to know much about a product to
"manage" the company that produces it), successful "management" has now
been subverted to little more than wielding tools like 'price point
engineering', "acquisition', and 'marketing strategy' to foist an
inferior product onto an increasingly stupid, easily manipulated
consumer (hint: does the picture of that hamburger really need to look
anything like what the consumer ultimately pays for/consumes, or even
has to contain the expected ingredients? ... not in the least!)
A true "manager" has the power to make an exception to policy to solve a
problem. Just try to find one with that power on the floor of a
corporate chain grocery store or retail outlet these days ... or even on
the phone for that matter.
Today's corporate management culture, focusing on bottom line first and
foremost (and ultimately, 'executive compensation'), has also arguably
(and successfully) insulated themselves from both the product and the
consumer, _by design_.
A neat trick, especially since you can get away with it ... but only for
I could go on and on and on about a number of factors OTHER than
corporate executive pay. That is not the only reason our goods cost
more. Far, far from it. The average American worker gets paid a hell
of a lot more than the average Chinese worker. But that still doesn't
cover everything. Corporations get taxed out the wahzoo here and you
know what? They pass that cost along to the consumers in terms of how
much a product costs. Corporations also need to make sure everything
is so freaking environmentally clean and such and it plain costs more
to produce a widget with environmental and other governmental
restrictions that do not exist on other countries.
Don't get me wrong, it is not like I want the fish to all die or the
birds to fall out of the sky or forcing seven-year-olds to work The
fact of the matter is that we are competing against societies that
allow this and the final result is that the products are just plain
cheaper coming out of those countries than they are coming out of
And there is more: we sort of need to have higher salaries because we
have more to maintain here in terms of existing infrastructure likes
roads and schools and utilities and whatnot.
I think we are veering off-topic of the original off-topic subject:
implementing high-speed rail through government subsidies. There have
been arguments, and good ones at that, saying we don't really need it
and, if we did, it would have been done already by some private firm
because there would be money to be made. There obviously is not the
wanton need nor desire for such a thing. The bottom line is that
there is no money in the till to do this thru government. If a State
is billions of dollars in the hole, how is throwing more money at
something that will produce lukewarm results (at best) help the
State? It will be even further in debt. It will be forced to
maintain another piece of infrastructure. And, in the long run,
certainly be worse off.
Swingman makes a number of good points about how accountants and the
MBA program has all but crippled American corporations because they
are being run by people who look at the bottom line and only as far
out as the next quarter. The people who really understand the
business aren't running them. As a result, you get what you got.
Before we invest in more things that aren't really going to help us
but are, rather, a luxury in this day and age, we need to get us out
of the hole we are in. We need to understand that 8-, 10-, 12-percent
and more returns are not everlasting. I firmly believe we have gotten
to this point because of this mentality that set in whenever we had
years of such returns throughout the 90s. T'ain't that way no more,
McGee. Both the private and public sectors will be better off once we
Sickening, isn't it? There was always a profit motive, but now it's
the ONLY motive.
Don't forget union wages and added perks, such as health insurance,
which quintuple paid-wage figures.
Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy
simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.
-- Storm Jameson
From time to time I hear someone say this. It is total BS.
I've been in manufacturing for 25 years. Working for businesses with
employee counts from 2 to thousands. Never a union shop though. I have
worked it from the shop floor to the engineering department. I think I'm
qualified to say what it would take to compete with China. If everyone in a
manufacturing facility were to work for free, the Chinese would still under
cut our prices. Operating costs alone, without adding in labor, is higher in
the US than the entire process, including labor, is in China.
BTW, anytime someone brings up the subject of manufacturing, people always
point to the auto or aircraft industries. Fact is, 90% of all manufacturing
done in the US is done in shops with 25 or less employees. No mufti million
dollar CEOs in these places. I have worked for shops where I made more than
the owner and I'm damn sure a long way from being rich.
If Barry put away Air Force One for a week, we wouldn't have the need
for -any- imported oil.
Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy
simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.
-- Storm Jameson
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