Saturday, April 18, 2009
Of course, in California, some of these highway investments are going to rural areas such as a bridge in Mendocino County, rather all going to choked urban areas in desperate need (In full disclosure, millions are also going to the 710). And the investment in small-town, McCain America brings me to the second part of this week's blogpost...micropolises.
A micropolis is, according to C. Kenneth Orski, a area neither suburban nor the rural, often centering around a city of around 10,000, and it's the only portion of my key stakeholder segment of my policy presentation not yet covered in this blog. Believe it, I actually learned about this on AIMZones...proving that they are actually useful for something more than celebrity dish. Since metropolitan areas are usually defined by counties, defined micropolises appear in places with small counties, namely the South and Midwest, though in reality micropolises dot the entire country (for example, Parlier, CA, might qualify as a micropolis, but as it's in Fresno County, it's automatically-and unfairly-grouped into the Fresno Metro Area just as Needles is into the San Bernardino). As I stated in the presentation, both micropolises and metropolises will benefit from the stimulus package. Micropolises will benefit from the money that is being sunk into rural roads and rural broadband, and perhaps some micropolises will one day become metropolises, as Visalia did.
By the way, I reopened most of my Purple Backpack Polls--they're open until the end of the month. From the Occidental intramural basketball tournament, I'm the Ferdey coach for the Purple Backpack Politics Blog.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
The above visual displays the routes approved by the government in the stimulus package (with Amtrak in black), and the below visual displays the ones favored by the transport politic, with additional Amtrak lines thrown in . I would like to point out that both lines are somewhat politically correct, and i would add that service between Sacramento and San Francisco or the Dallas-San Antonio-Houston triangle or a direct route from the Midwest's two biggest cities (none completely on transitpolitic's list) are vastly more important than an Amtrak line across South Dakota. Also, I think that a major investment needs to be having 4 tracks in most Amtrak corridors, and 2-3 tracks everywhere else. Cornelius Vanderbilt did this in the New York-Albany corridor over 100 years ago when the population of the US wasn't a quarter of what it is now. This would help prevent the Coast Starlight waiting forever at sidings and me getting into my grandma's in Portland 9 hours late (Of course, so would giving right-of-way to the passenger trains, which I also favor).
The Transport Politic divided the network into corridors, then scored them through some algorythm, which I view as somewhat suspect--among other things, it gives the Detriot-Toledo Corridor a higher score than any corridor originating from Los Angeles, and refuses to acknowledge that several cities a few hundred miles apart have traditional ties, even without having much between them. In my opinion, here are the most important corridors, in order:
- San Diego-Los Angeles-San Francisco.
- San Francisco-Sacramento
- Los Angeles-Las Vegas
Who would be helped most by this? In my opinion, it would be people living in high-density gentrifying areas. You probably already knew that Manhattan has already gentrified, and portions of Los Angeles (Silverlake and the Arts District) are doing it as well. People who live in many city centers often live an hour or more away from the international airport (for example, residents of Washington, Houston, or Denver) and being able to connect with a city less than 500 miles away by HSR running at ~200 mph would be more efficient than going to an airport, provided there is not as much of a security hassle for HSL.
Who would be hurt? exurbanites...since, with the exception of the politically-correct California High Speed Rail Network, most connections have a sole stop in the urban center, one would have to travel a ways into town. This is the flip side of the airport argument. And that's today's blogpost
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
As you know, the stimulus bill was passed months ago with very little bipartisan support. Billions of dollars of the bill came in the form of block grants to states, who now have to decide what to do with it. I went to the site Recovery.gov to find out where the money went, and then picked which state I wanted to find out where the spending was to go. I chose California to investigate for several reasons.
- It has received considerably more money than any other states
- It has both a higher foreclosure rate and a higher unemployment rate than the country as a whole
- Its state constitution makes it hard on constituents in times of recession
- It has a Republican Governor (albeit one who supports the stimulus), but a Democratic legislature
- I live there
Sadly, I could not find an exact accounting of the 700-odd projects that Governor Schwarzennegger was hyping up and had been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, nor could I find an exact dollar amount for any one project (probably because that information doesn't need to be posted until May). What I did find was a general outline of a couple dozen big projects, including:
- "NewStart" Mass transit projects for major cities
- Discretionary highway spending
- Upgrades to airports
- Funding for transit agencies to buy green vehicles
- Funding for tribal projects
I see no real problem with any of the projects, but I do think that too much money is delegated to patching patches and not enough has been dedicated to major long-haul projects such as high-speed rail and mass transit (This is probably due to political expiediency...the people who use mass transit, on the whole, don't vote nearly as much as those who use cars). Anyway, Here's why I'm interested in how the states are spending their money--because they want more money. Last Sunday, Schwarzenegger, PA Governor Ed Rendell, and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appeared on Meet the Press in the above clip. They were talking about the same thing I mentioned earlier in this post...they thought that there wasn't enough funding for big, new, necessary projects, citing a national high-speed rail network as an example. To remedy this, Schwarzenegger advocated additional federal, an avocation that would apall his fellow Republican Governors, Mssrs. Sanford and Jindal. And this got me thinking about a Saturday Night Live cold opener that aired during the stimulus debate and was rebroadcast on Saturday. (I know it's not REAL news, but it has been proven that those who watch political satire are more politically efficant). In it, Jason Sudeikis (as Joe Biden) proclaims that the $815 stimulus package "is going to get us to April. Tops." As fate would have it, Sudeikis might be right. More on the possible new stimulus bill in subsequent posts.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Local governments and transportation agencies
Recently, PBS did a special entitled Blueprint for America. The special points out that ridership for many major transit agencies is at levels not seen since the 1950s, when many big-city streetcar systems were in place. Even though ridership has increased, it is still not enough to keep agencies from being reliant on subsidy money, especially for new construction. Subsidies are largely based on gas and sales tax revenues, which have been down due to the recession and falling oil prices, and overall government spending, which has been cut in states that have balanced budget amendments (stupid) and 2/3 majorities (stupider). The federal government should swoop down and pick up most of the tab, probably now somewhere in the billions of dollars, to stop the rate cuts and fare increases and allow them to build much-need light rail and subway expansions. And I know that Republicans will kick and scream, but this is necessary for the good of the country...the bailouts for the bank industry and the auto industry benefited primarily shareholders and executives, who generally are more wealthy than the average American. A transportation bailout would benefit all Americans by continuing service to people without. So stop worrying about AIG and Wachovia and start worrying about the transit problems faced by ordinary, downtrodden working-class Americans. Plus, according to Gavin Newsome in the interview, a strong transit system. And I agree with him, citing what the Gold Line has done to Pasadena and what's gone down in Charlotte. And that's this week's blogpost.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Sunday morning, there was an article about infrastructure in the major infotainment magazine Parade, which comes in the Sunday LA Times and other papers and is read by millions of people weekly. It noted that our system of roads in this country is outdated and broken, with many highly-trafficked roads being at least 50 years old. As evidence, it cited an I-95 closure due to a cracked pylon, a large sinkhole in Colorado, and testimonials from Tennessee truckers. It hinted at ways to raise revenue. However, I would like to raise two issues about the framing of this article.
• The article operates on the assumption that Americans will always be driving cars and trucks. It notes that the United States “does 96% of its traveling on land by car or light truck,” a statistic which is both unfortunate and misleading, as it fails to give a criteria for “traveling” and leaves out freight, much of which is shipped by rail. In one of the political circles I frequent, my family is often talking about a new generation of plug-in cars. In the circle I frequent at Oxy, one of the frequent topics of discussion is Los Angeles mass transit, and building a plethora of new lines to create a new network, one that resembles the transit of similar-sized cities like Paris (More about this in subsequent blogposts). The article made no mention of how mass transit could take the strain off overcrowded freeways, cut the nation’s carbon footprint (which was brought up in church by our Oxy-educated pastor Sunday), and make our aging bridges and byways last a little longer.
• The article expects that we can get something for nothing. In order to fund the trillions we need for infrastructure spending, the article proposes mostly gimmicks, including “congestion pricing”. It also cites the example of Missouri, which cut corners in its highway system wherever possible. We can’t afford to cut corners here. The U.S. needs to raise considerably more revenue, and perhaps we can use a gas tax and cap-and-trade to fund infrastructure, but that won’t be enough. We should also stick to tried-and-true ways to raise revenue, like my favorite, the capital gains tax, which is now at half of what it was when my parents where married 35 years ago.
And that’s my piece. By the way, I’m back in Whittier for Spring Break, and so the heckling begins.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Now, I'm not always in favor of development, especially when historic preservation is an issue, but sensible devolpment (meaning built-to-last and environmentally-friendly) is what we need to get us out of this recession. This project would create much-needed jobs in two of the worse-off of these United States--It was recently reported that California's unemployment is at 10.1%, and Nevada continues to have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. And infrastructure investmest spurs that kind of the devolpment--look at what's been done on Del Mar Blvd and the Paseo Colorado in Pasadena thanks to the Gold Line, and look at what's happening in the Arts District lofts by the Gold Line extension. The same thing could happen in Primm, in Anaheim, or even in Barstow.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Two important events took place this week: President Obama proposed his budget and he delivered his first message to Congress. A Los Angeles Times article noted that Obama's budget "included broad goals and few line items", and the same could pretty much be said for his speech. The three issues he focused on were energy, health care and education. On the face of it, none of those issues are infrastructure. In fact, there was less about infrastructure in Obama's speech than in the speech of Louisiana governor Kenneth Parcell, er, Bobby Jindal. Jindal criticized Obama and Congress' massive appropriation for infrastructure, highlighting the Anaheim-to-Las Vegas high speed rail project (More on that in a future post). Infrastructure made its main entrance in Obama's speech subtly in the energy and education, where Obama highlighted his green energy plans and singled out a crumbling school in Dillon, SC.
Looking at Obama's budget, the first thing Republicans, including David Brooks, cry foul about is that its percentage of GDP inches us closer to Europe. (To that, I counter that we NEED massive gov't spending in ALL AREAS. This morning's LA Times had an interesting schematic showing the differences in funding between Obama's budget and the last Bush budget. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it on the 'Net. I will note, however, the most important difference to funding--an increase in the outlay to the Department of Transportation by more than $60B, with much of that increase coming in the stimulus package.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
One article in today's Los Angeles Times compares the public works projects built by the WPA and other FDR New Deal agencies to Obama's infrastructure projects, and notes that the projects built THIS:
Grand Coulee Dam in WA
and even THIS:
It goes on to note that Obama's plan creates very few of these monumental projects, with the possible exception of high-speed rail. I would note that high-speed rail is a very important exception (more on the high-speed rail debate later), would disagree with the Times that some of our infrastructure projects are not , and would hope that sooner or later, Obama builds the new infrastructure
Either way, Obama's stimulus/infrastructure package was the main subject of the Governors' Meeting over the weekend, according to a recent New York Times article. Most governors, Democratic and Republican, support Obama on the stimulus package, the most noteworthy Republican crossing lines being our own Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had to take the stimulus money just to balance the budget (For that, the California "I'm-Too-Conservative to-Care-About-the-Public-Good" Republican Party is giving him a vote of no confidence).
The Republican governors who oppose the stimulus package the most, and have hinted they might refuse some or all of the money include Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin (Where have I heard those names before? Oh, yeah...they're all running for Prez in 2012). According to the Huffington Post, Obama is now taking shots at state governments who oppose him. You can watch the video at the Huffington Post link.
And finally, a recent ABC News poll analyzed Obama's first month. Here are some of their key findings:
*People think Obama was trying to compromise with Republicans by a
3:1 margin, but think that Republicans weren't trying to compromise with Obama, 59-34
*Support for the stimulus plan is 64% overall, but only one in three among Republicans
*Obama holds a 68% approval rating, and an identical 68% of Americans say Obama has brought "Change to Washington"
*The % of Americans who think the country is on the right track has doubled since the election, but is only at 31%
*People think that the stimulus will help their local economy much more than the economy as a whole
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Today’s topic: Rural broadband.
- It will promote innovation and curtail unemployment in rural areas. Decades ago under the New Deal and Fair Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority extended electricity and phones to disaffected people in Tennessee and Alabama (ironically to some of the areas now least served by broadband). The result was the creation of thousands of jobs, the establishment of unions in an un-unionized area, and the building of libraries in a low-literacy area. The broadband initiative would likely do the same thing. Also, another part of the NPR article notes that, using the example of Ten Sleep, Wyoming.
- Don’t just look at now; look at fifty years into the future. Fifty years ago, Temecula, CA, was a ranch. Today, 100,000 people live there. The same thing may be happening in Centennial, CA. Today’s farm is tomorrow’s megalopolis. When you think of only the immediate future, THIS is what happens:
Yeah. And that’s today’s blogspot. By the way, if you want to want to read more about the myth of Prometheus, click here.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
As you've undoubtedly heard, the stimulus bill has passed both houses of Congress, passing in the House with no Republican support, and in the Senate with the support of only three blue-state Republicans. This means that Boehner's gamble has paid off in the House, but the stimulus bill will have to be percieved as a failure for it to pay off completely. Seven blue-dog Democrats defected, and hopefully they'll be primaried out in 2010. In analysis on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, syndicated columnist Mark Shields thinks that it was a major success for Obama and the American people, while New York Times correspondent David Brooks thinks that too many people are not satisfied with this bill. The Los Angeles Times, and the author of this blog, tend to side with Shields on this one, pointing out that the stimulus even the Republicans concede that the bill will create or preserve at least 3.46 million jobs. The author would like to add that one important function of this bill is creating jobs in every industry, yes, including the arts industry. View NPR Coverage.
Here's a visual that shows what's in this "Wonder Bill". As you can see, $85.7 billion (or about $300 for each person in America) is allocated towards infrastructure. Of this, $46B is allocated towards fixing our highway network, and get almost $10B apiece.
Now that the stimulus bill has been passed, the direction of this blog will change slightly, to how infrastructure spending is being used to help the economy, or how lack of infrastructure spending is hurting the economy.
This blog post is brought to you by Nestle.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Yes, the stimulus package passed the House by a vote of 61-37, with only Collins, Snowe and Specter supporting it (the total does not add up to 100 because Gregg sat it out and the Minnesota seat is still vacant). Though the only Senators to support the measure (Snowe, Collins, Specter) came from states that comfortably voted for Obama last November, this means that part of Boehner's gamble hasn't paid off. In a post-passage news conference, Sens. McConnell (R-KY) and Kyl (R-AZ) attacked the bill for turning the United States into a Socialist county like the rest of the industrialized world, and roasted the amount of (including "pork" for improving our schools and energy grid!). You can view it here, or you can also get the link by clicking on the picture of the vote.
Coverage by the Los Angeles Times
Coverage by C-SPAN
Coverage by National Public Radio
Now that the bill has passed, it goes to conference committe, where the major differences between House and Senate versions, deliniated below
Personally, I hope the conference committee sides with the House on most of the issues--you'll note that the House has allocation more money for infrastructure (the actual subject of this blog), as the bipartisan committee decided to cut the spending on infrastructure improvements suchs as roads, schools, and broadband technogoly. This is very unfortunate, since sectors that would be put to work by those measures (i.e. home construction) have been among the worst hit by the recession. The elite chamber also slashes funding to states, which are in worse shape than the federal government and have to fund most of the infrastructure projects not funded by the feds. The one thing I side with the elite chamber on is increased spending to bring our green energy grid into the 21st century, curtail our dependence on foreign oil, and decrease the trade deficit that is a major cause of the recession.
Yes, readers, I tend to side with BIGGER numbers, because I'm a big-government tax-and-spend hippie Greepeace Liberal pinko Commie Socialist...and I feel that bigger spending will give the First Tiger the appearance of actually doing something.
And that's today's rant. Coming up, I report on the conference committee's findings, and I channel Prometheus.
Friday, February 6, 2009
The new Republican tactic—not calling the stimulus package a stimulus package, but a spending bill. Defeated presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) used this tactic in interviews Wednesday, and it was adopted by fellow spending hawk Tom Coburn (R-OK) on the floor yesterday morning—he claimed that Obama’s stimulus package would not create a single job. I would like Obama to find that person who gets that job and invite him to the White House, just to prove that Coburn was wrong and Mark Shields was right about the death of conservatism. Anyway, the GOP’s tactic seems to be working—though three-quarters of the population support a stimulus package (down from before Obama took office), half of its supporters think it needs “major changes”. McCain yesterday proposed an amendment to cut the stimulus monies in half—in the Republicans’ view, the half cut would mostly be “fat”, and the infrastructure spending that is the root of this blog. The half cut is not to be, but earlier tonight it was announced that the Senate has agreed to cut at least $85B in “fat”—in other words, funding for education and the arts, and aid to the embattled states mentioned in the previous blog.
A word about political capital at this point—I know the concept is mostly associated with President Bush, but it could also be associated with Obama. Obama has been forced by the Republicans to buckle down and burn a lot of his political capital on this stimulus bill (not to mention from the tax questions of his Cabinet), appearing on every major network and now stump-speaking in the battlegrounds of Florida and Indiana. The Republicans are going to lose the infrastructure fight (a foregone conclusion), but, unfortunately for us liberals, they have made it easier to win the next one. For coverage of the next one, keep watching this blog
Also, take a look at this NewsHour interview with David Axelrod
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Let’s talk about the effect of the infrastructure bill on illegal immigration, an issue that has hotly been debated.
Many states with large populations of illegal immigrants are also the states hit hardest by the economic crisis. These states are also “too big to fail”, despite having measures such as balanced-budget amendments and majorities required to pass budgets that are almost as bad as the Articles of Confederation. Their governors, both Republican and Democratic, are urging speedy passage of the infrastructure bill. According to a Los Angeles Times article, part of the House package includes a measure that would require all workers receiving jobs under the stimulus package to register with eVerify, a citizenship authenticating website. Critics say that not only does it violate immigrant rights, it could slow relief in the form of infrastructure money. No doubt that this measure was driven in part by the wave of nativism that inevitably follows a downturn in the economy.
In other news, Michael Steele appointed RNC chair in attempt to relate to minorities, who have been further alienated by the aforementioned measure.
So how will we resolve the issue of immigration (which the Republicans so kindly brought up), an issue that is pulling many state governments into the red? By cutting them out of the construction industry, which often employs large numbers of them? Sending them back or not letting them in in the first place are out of the question. So we must do something to give immigrants the tools to achieve the American dream, so that their descendants can be musicians or realtors or MBA trainers or whatever. And that’s my take on immigration, the infrastructure package, and the economy. Keep the paintballs coming.
Friday, January 30, 2009
As you have probably heard, the House version of the stimulus bill, with the infrastructure funding attached, passed Wednesday by a vote of 244-188. The bill included a last-minute amendment by Reps. DeFazio of Oregon and Nadler of New York to add an additional $4.5 billion dollars to the package, including $3 billion for rail and mass transit projects. The Senate takes up its version on Monday.
Thanks to House Minority Leader John Boehner’s continued cries that Republicans should stick to their small-government guns and ignore the will of the VAST MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE, REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRAT, no Republicans voted for the bill. By doing this, Boehner is making a fairly substantial gamble…and the fate of the Republican Party likely hangs in the balance.
There are several caveats that will have to be met for Boehner’s gamble to pay dividends for the Republican Party:
- A unified alternative will need to be put forth by the GOP. According to an article in today’s LA Times, the Republicans are anti-Obama’s massive spending on infrastructure and related projects, but have yet to come up with a unified front of what to do instead, so that they’ll have actions to point at should the infrastructure plan fail. If you’re a Republican, you have to hope that Boehner, Palin, or new GOP chair Michael Steele (elected earlier today) will be able to rally the GOP behind a single issue.
- Bipartisanship will have to fail. Despite the vote in the House, there’s still a pretty good chance that some GOPs will support Barack on the infrastructure package before the bill creeps to its inevitable passage, either from moderate Republican Senators who come from centrist or Democratic states (Olympia Snowe being the most likely culprit), or in either house after the bill has been altered in conference committee. If Obama gets GOP support, he can tout that he has changed the culture in Washington at least somewhat, thereby fulfilling his main campaign promise.
- They will have to run a governor on the GOP presidential ticket in 2012. No way will any legislator obstructionist to the infrastructure package have any chance in hell against perhaps the most popular and unifying man in the history of the world, excluding Jesus Christ.
- And this is the hard one: HOPE THAT THE INFRASTRUCTURE BILL FAILS. The Republicans are already banking on this, as they are running an ad slamming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whom they hope to pick off in 2010, for supporting the infrastructure bill. If the bill fails to get us out of the recession, Obama will look like an idiot and the GOP will take back Congress and the White House right? WRONG!!!! As with FDR, if Obama makes by creating SOME jobs and refitting our infrastructure, people will re-elect him even if the recession doesn’t end. Of course, as with the post-New Deal era, Republicans will probably eventually regain control of Congress…it just will take two decades for it to happen, and two generations to stick.
Here’s more coverage on the stimulus issue, for your viewing pleasure
- From National Public Radio
- From the LA Times
- From the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
- From the Deanist blog mydd.com
Oh, and one more thing…
Congratulations to the next President of Occidental College, Jonathan Veitch!!!!!!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
- From the Times, 1/23
- From Politico, 1/25
- From the Times, 1/25
- From National Public Radio, 1/25
- From the Times, 1/26