Elected officials in Washington finally seem to get it that something must be done to reduce federal spending. Last week, House Republicans unveiled a plan to cut $74 billion from President Obama’s budget request for this year, and members of the Republican Study Committee have proposed an even more ambitious plan to cut $2.5 trillion over the next decade. Members of both parties in the Senate are eyeing plans for long-term deficit reduction.
Even President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, confessed that “we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.” The big question left is whether the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget, which he will release next week, will embody the fiscally responsible choices he admits we need.
So far, it doesn’t look like it. Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled the President’s plan to invest an additional $53 billion in high-speed rail over the next six years. The stimulus already provided $8 billion in funding, followed by $2.5 billion added by Secretary LaHood. According to The Washington Post, the total price tag of the scheme would weigh in at $600 billion over 20 years.
The President’s obstinate commitment to high-speed rail reflects a complete and utter neglect to take deficit reduction seriously. Heritage’s Ronald Utt writes that a high-speed rail program would create “perpetual massive government subsidies and larger budget deficits” and “additional burdens imposed on hard-pressed state governments, which will be required to match the perpetual federal subsidies to build the system.”