GIThruster wrote:I'm sorry but you just will need to convince me of your facts since I did a study of this years ago and found no such thing as subsidies to gas companies. Gas is taxed very heavily. Rail is subsidized very heavily. You can tell yourself it's otherwise but those are the facts.
Example 1. Gas companies are exempt from prosecution for polluting water tables for additives to gasoline that leaks out of under ground tanks.
Example 2. Oil and mineral rights are given out at FAR below market value on federal land. This alone would add almost $50 to the price of a barrel of oil.
Example 3. A liability limit on spill clean up of $75 Million. This will probably change because of BP but the cap will not be removed just raised.
Example 4. Federal and state governments using eminent domain to buy land at the tax payers expense and than giving it to oil companies for pipelines and other infrastructure.
Example 5. Direct subsidies. Gasoline IS taxed but crude oil is also subsidized directly. There is actually a net profit to the oil companies between these two numbers of a few dollars / barrel.
Example 6. The Iraq war. This is by itself a 2 trillion dollar subsidy to American oil companies. Yes Saddam was a bad guy. Yes I am sure he would have loved to attack the US. However he didn't have the ABILITY to. This is all well documented. There was no national security need to go into Iraq AND they knew it before they invaded. But when we did take Baghdad, the Oil Ministry was protected. The ministries of Water, Agriculture, Security, Power and others were left unguarded and therefore were essentially destroyed which caused a HUGE amount of misery in the population and directly led to an increase in resistance. PLUS Iraq was forced to sell rights to its oil fields to American oil companies at a discount over real market value.
I could go on...
GIThruster wrote:The Interstate Highway System is not an example of subsidizing auto transport. It is THE example of the world's largest macro-engineering project, designed exclusively as a national defense measure. It was designed and begun during the cold war to make it possible to flee the cities should thermonuclear war break out. The outcome is a bennie for everyone (just like the internet) that defense dollars were spent for things we all get to use. And BTW, the highways we have are no longer paid for with federal dollars. The states have the responsibility for upkeep, which is why all the highways in PA suck, and those in NJ are excellent.
So, the federal government used its powers to tax people and force them to sell property to GIVE it to companies that build roads. This to the tune of 2-3 Trillion 2004 equivalent dollars for the initial investment (What became Amtrak was only given about 925 Billion 2004 equivalent dollars for lan purchase and rail construction from 1910-1955). That my friend is called a subsidy. The original motivation for the project doen't change the fact that it IS a subsidy. A quick search shows that the federal budget for 2008 included just over 40 Billion dollars for highways (this is less than a 3rd of the total investment in roads throught the country). Amtrak got 2.6 billion in 2008 (Almost 90% of total passenger rail investment). In addition, just because the sates provide additional money to roads does not mean that THAT money isn't a subsidy also.
So to sum up The US directly subsidizes roads to the tune of 120 billion dollars a year and passenger rail gets about 3 billion.
Personally I think it was an excellent investment. This is WHY we have a federal government. To do the large projects that benefit everyone but are too large / difficult for private companies. I can think of a few other examples of good project for the govt. Say a launch loop for easy access to orbit. That would be an EXCELLENT use of 2 trillion.
As for transportation, I maintain my claim that passenger cars are only practical because the Oil companies and roads are heavily subsidized. If the price of gas was actually allowed to reach its natural price than almost no one would drive and rail would be price competitive and even superior to driving because it uses so much less fuel per passenger mile than cars.
I agree, mass transit does typically take longer, but not always. For instance, in New York City is is almost always faster to take a subway than a taxi. In heavy traffic areas it is usually better to take mass transit. It is almost always faster to take a long-distance train across country than drive because you don't stop when you sleep.
In addition, mass transit allows you to do other things while you commute. When I drive I can't read my paper, I can work on my projects and I can't catch up on emails. With mass transit, commuting time is no long a waste of time, it CAN be useful time.
Finally, it is important to remember that driving to work is easily the single most dangerous thing you are ever likely to do in your life. Where as every single fatality from trains make the news because it is so unusual.