American Elephants

How to Build A Subway by The Elephant's Child


New York City is building a new subway, and here’s an album of pictures that gives an idea of how it’s done. The Second Avenue subway line was the greatest project that the city never built — until 2007, almost 90 years after it was initially  proposed, when the city finally broke ground. When completed, the $4.5 billion project will provide New Yorkers with two more miles of commutable subway tunnels on Manhattan’s East Side. This will become the 72nd Street Station. Different working conditions, not my cup of tea, but interesting.

Just Look At What Obama’s Getting All Excited About! by The Elephant's Child

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“Just to make the final point about the sequester” said President Obama at his Friday press conference, we ill get through this. This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think as some people have said.” Well, that’s a relief, but the “some people” who have been predicting an apocalypse — are the President himself and senior members of the administration. 

Mr. Obama has considerable discretion as to how he prioritizes federal spending. He is attempting to implement the sequester to cause as much pain and discomfort as possible in order to extract another tax increase. But he just got a big tax increase on “the rich”last month. Wait until he finds out that his tax increase doesn’t bring in as much revenue as was predicted.

“The rich” have better accountants than the rest of us, and you might have noted that many companies paid increased dividends in December, thus avoiding the January tax hike. Or noticed a year or so ago, when John Kerry chose to moor his yacht in Rhode Island instead of Massachusetts and thereby save $400,000 in taxes. There is nothing illegal about that, nor improper. Massachusetts taxes were way out of line, and people can choose not to pay them.

This Isn’t “Shovel Ready” Either, Mr. President. by The Elephant's Child

It’s not that Obama has fixed ideas, but he does keep returning to the same things over and over, or perhaps it’s his speechwriter. On Friday he was back to the old ‘roads and bridges’ theme. He’s been going on about this for over four years, and perhaps some roads and bridges have been fixed, but I don’t know where.

Obama dredged up an old talking point in a rare press briefing on Friday. Pretty clear why he picked this particular bridge:

“I went to a bridge that connects Mitch McConnell’s state to John Boehner’s state, and it was a rotten bridge — and everybody knows it,” he said. “And I’ll bet they really want to see that improved. Well, how do we do it? Let’s have a conversation about it. That will create jobs. It will be good for businesses.”

The president was referring specifically to the Brent Spent Bridge, a nearly 50-year-old structure that bridges the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky. The federal government has declared it “functionally obsolete.”

In September of 2011, the president campaigned near the bridge, but failed to win Congressional support for the American Jobs Act, which went for tens of billions of dollars in new infrastructure spending. With new funding, Obama claimed, the Brent Spence Bridge “could be replaced right now.” Except that it could not. What he demonstrated then, as now, is that he has no understanding of how these things actually take place, or for that matter, how jobs are created. Andrew Stiles explained the steps in building a new bridge and creating jobs.

The Federal Highway Administration has yet to open the issue to public comment. Even if the necessary funding was in place (it’s not) the earliest possible date for beginning construction would be 2015, with a 2022 completion date. Earliest.

Noise and environmental studies are under way to ensure project compliance with state and federal regulation. The “environmental phase” of the project is estimated to cost $18 million. The project price tag for funding is $2.4 billion. In a typical arrangement the federal government provides 80 percent of the funding, with state and local governments covering the rest. In this case the feds would provide $1.9 billion and state and local governments would need to raise $500 million. So far only about $90 million of their share has been allocated. Even if they were able to come up with funding overnight, actual construction would not begin for at least another four years.

That is how the roads and bridges scenario works out. Environmental impact studies, noise reduction studies, design studies, materials studies and who knows what else—with a public project everybody gets to comment. Finally the entire cost of the project comes out of taxpayer’s pockets. The wages and cost of the workers hired to “create the jobs” are just more government jobs. You haven’t created a job, you’ve added to the government payroll and the cost of government.

The fact that this particular “rotten bridge” crosses the Ohio R. between Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) state and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) state is just the kind of snide comment Obama cannot resist. Has there ever been a president who has less understanding of the bipartisanship he claims as his aim?

But the President does not understand the difference between government jobs and private sector jobs. Government jobs suck money out of the private sector, and are a cost for the businesses that might otherwise grow, expand, and actually create jobs.

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