In my view, the biggest financial implication of the Biden/Harris victory is the transfer of funds from rural Americans to urban Americans. Big Government spends nearly all of its money in cities so a bigger government accelerates the process of looting from rural Americans to enrich those who live in cities, e.g., with free public housing, improved transportation systems, fancier hospitals, etc.
“Over budget and behind schedule: Why the Bay Area can’t get big transportation projects right” (San Jose Mercury News, June 27, 2021) has some interesting data:
In 1998, Caltrans estimated that a new eastern span of the Bay Bridge would cost $1.4 billion and take four years to build. The actual cost was $6.4 billion; plagued by design controversies, brittle steel rods and more, the project lasted 11 years.
The Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco cost nearly twice as much as its initial budget and opened two years behind schedule — then had to close for another nine months to repair cracked steel beams that were not built to code.
Construction has not yet begun on the project extending BART service through downtown San Jose, but its price tag has risen twice over the last three years, to $6.9 billion, while its projected opening date has slipped by three to four years.
Now, with lawmakers in Washington announcing a deal for a huge increase in federal infrastructure spending, and officials in the Bay Area eyeing the next big round of “mega-projects” — including a second transbay BART tube, the extension of Caltrain service into downtown San Francisco and a long list of other plans that by one estimate could total $100 billion — there is mounting pressure to get our act together.
The high cost of transportation projects is not unique to the Bay Area. It’s a nationwide problem, with the United States frequently spending far more per mile of new subway construction, for instance, than other countries around the world.
Take the six-mile, four-station South Bay BART extension, for instance. The design for its 4.7-mile tunnel beneath downtown San Jose is based on a construction method pioneered in Barcelona that was meant to lower costs and minimize disruptions at street level during construction.
The Spanish project cost less than $250 million per mile, according to SPUR. The BART extension is set to cost well over $1 billion per mile.
The rest of the article isn’t so interesting. After decades of failure, it is obvious that Americans can reorganize government so that we will do everything efficiently going forward. (If it is that easy, why not reorganize ourselves to be able to build integrated circuits with competitive quality and price compared to what the Taiwanese are able to do? Then we wouldn’t have a chip shortage shutting down our car factories.)
I find it fascinating that so many Americans are still so enthusiastic about infrastructure spending when building infrastructure is one of the things that we are worst at. Even when urban dwellers can stick rural Americans with the bill, one would think that they’d prefer instead to loot out the rural Americans in some other way that would deliver greater benefits to city residents.
- “The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth” (NYT)
- “American infrastructure projects often cost five to six times what they cost in other developed countries. Can we learn to be thriftier?” (New Yorker, 2017; answer so far… “No”)