A Facebook friend posted “Words fail me … #Trumpanitcs” on top of “Trump Pushes Republicans in Congress to Oppose Funding Hudson Rail Tunnel” (nytimes):
President Trump is pressing congressional Republicans to oppose funding for a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, using the power of his office to block a key priority for the region and his Democratic rivals, according to several people with knowledge of his actions.
Mr. Trump urged Speaker Paul D. Ryan this week not to support funding for the $30 billion project, two people familiar with the conversation said.
$30 billion for a short tunnel? The world’s longest and deepest tunnel, opened in 2016, cost roughly $10 billion (Wikipedia). I accepted the assumption that the president of a country that is $21 trillion in debt wouldn’t oppose this purely on the grounds of efficiency and a theory that, if $30 billion must be borrowed, it could be better spent elsewhere. The same friend, when professing his love for Hillary Clinton and/or hatred for Donald Trump, tirelessly beats the inequality drum. So I asked
If you’re concerned about inequality, why would you want the Federal government to subsidize this $30 billion project anyway? Wouldn’t it make inequality in the U.S. more extreme if low- and middle-income taxpayers in the Midwest or South have to pay for a train tunnel to be used by high-income residents of the NY/NJ region? If it actually does make sense to spend $30 billion, why not have NY/NJ fund this themselves?
The consensus response among the virtuous Trump-haters on the thread:
The mid-west has not pulled its own weight in federal taxes in 40 years
Pull their weight means those states get more in Federal funding than they pay
ÇA subsidizes about 5-7 of those states if you count the state budgets as well, and more like 10 if you only count federal tax xfer
In fact if these states were to pay back the coastal Blue states over the next 30 years and balance their own budgets, they would have to triple their state taxes on average
if “we are concerned about inequality,” should’t we be asking states that aren’t solvent and can’t afford the price of admission to politely exit through the rear door?
These folks don’t have any problem with individual Americans being on welfare for decades and, in fact, consistently vote to expand government handouts (free housing, free healthcare, free food, free smartphones, etc.) to individuals. But they don’t like Americans collected into a state not “pulling their weight”? [Note that the assumption that a river of cash is flowing from correct-thinkers to Deplorables may be incorrect: “Against a national average of $1,935 in intergovernmental spending per American, red states receive just $1,879. Blue states get considerably more, at $2,124 per resident.”]
Taxpayers in KY and AL don’t even fully fund the projects they receive. They fund NOTHING out of state
we give them HUGE subsidies, and yet they believe they get none.
if they are going to vote to cut the benefits they receive, let’s accommodate them
I asked why it mattered what “they” believed (assuming any of these virtuous coastal dwellers actually have personal contact with Deplorables in the Midwestern and Southern states). Would it make sense to deny state assistance to people who don’t believe the same things as the elites? Someone living in means-tested public housing has to leave and pay market rents because he or she has incorrect beliefs? They want to reduce inequality, but only among those who believe the same things that they believe?
On the subjecting of voting, I pointed out that fully one third of folks in West Virginia virtuously voted for Hillary Clinton. Why punish them because of the incorrect political beliefs of their neighbors? Aren’t they already suffering sufficiently in having to live near Trump supporters?
Maybe some of those low income states need to be depopulated?
It’s painful, but if a state’s economy for example grew around coal and coal is no longer in demand (or auto manufacturing, steel production, etc) how can one possibly fix that other than by the most artificial means?
I responded by pointing out that schoolteachers in West Virginia are on strike right now and say that they get paid less than teachers in other states. Why not give them the $30 billion so that this inequality is rectified? None of the inequality-obsessed coastal dwellers wanted to do that.
Why is it obviously fair, though, for someone in Kentucky to pay for a tunnel for use by the Wall Street folks who trashed the economy in 2008? Suppose that it were true that Kentucky has been collecting federal welfare for decades. If there is still inequality, with people in Kentucky being less wealthy than people in New Jersey and New York, wouldn’t it make sense to increase the federal welfare flow to Kentucky rather than trying to pull the money in reverse for this new tunnel?
In short, if the answer for a low-income individual is “more welfare” (not to be confused with “more cowbell”) why is the answer for a low-income state “less welfare”?
[We can’t say that the U.S. has historically run this way, can we? During the Great Depression, for example, the Tennessee Valley Authority was created to build infrastructure in a comparatively poor region of the U.S. They didn’t have a “let’s make the rich states even richer” spending plan back then, did they?]
- “The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth” (nytimes) on how New Yorkers will pay themselves $400/hour when they do get hold of tax dollars harvested in Alabama and Kentucky
- Oresund Bridge (5-mile suspension bridge and 2.5-mile tunnel connecting Sweden and Denmark, built essentially without taxpayer funds for roughly 1/10th the cost of this proposed NJ/NY link (a 2.5-mile tunnel))