The American tax

In that little piece about a Japanese luxury train, I suggested that such a conveyance would “never catch on here.” One reason it wouldn’t is simply that an American operation would have to charge several times as much, and it’s not hard to see why:

American infrastructure is this costly because of immense, endemic, universal public-private corruption — systems of both direct and financialized graft at every stage of infrastructure development, from the planning to the ribbon-cutting to the use of deferred maintenance to ransack public transportation budgets for cash, year after year, after which the responsible authorities claim that fixing the century-old signals is just too damn pricey. This system of legal fraud begins with the bevies of project consultants, continues through ludicrous private contractor and labor costs, and continues when, years later, high-paid administrative fixers and new armies of consultants and contractors arrive to fix what broke because it was never maintained. It is a system of tolerated kleptocracy that may be the only thing that America still does better than anyone else in the world. It is baked into every assumption about building for the public benefit.

To which Dave Schuler adds:

That isn’t true only of high-speed rail. It’s true of education, health care, the military, and every other action of government at any level in the United States. It will be true of a “Green New Deal” if such a thing were to be embarked upon. It is why we pay more for just about anything than anyone else in the world. Can we fix these things? Yes, we can. Will we? The smart money says “No.”

“Greed is good,” said Gordon Gekko, and legions enlisted under his banner; the fact that he was a fictional character made absolutely no difference.

1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    19 February 2019 · 3:47 pm

    Maybe we should replace our general-fund model of government with a subscription model, at least for some things. Any government activity not explicitly enumerated in the applicable constitution or municipal charter must be signed up for, and the subscriber’s FareShare paid in full, before construction can even begin on whatever project the Department of Boondoggles is selling. Only when enough subscriptions have been purchased (and renewed as needed) will anything get done. And if you believe strongly enough in the project you’ll keep renewing until someday, if you’ve been very, very consistent in your renewal behavior, you might actually get to use what you’ve been paying for.

    You can pay a certain amount to have bare-bones access during off-peak demand periods, a little more for regular use, and a top-tier amount if you want everyone else kicked off to make room for you and your entourage.

    The highest tier, of course, will be reserved for the people who never signed up, because they’ll receive the best reward of all: their taxes won’t be hiked for the benefit of a bunch of monorail salesmen and (eventually) their rubes.

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