Herbert is even better than usual

The New York Times this week has now produced two superb columns about infrastructure. The cancellation (maybe not) of the NY/NJ tunnel by Gov. Christie has ignited some interest in an overdue and necessary national conversation. At least I hope it has. Our neglect of infrastructure over the past 30 years is a sin against our future.

Today Bob Herbert nails it (following on the heels of Krugman yesterday and remarkably tracking Krugman’s own points. I posted on Krugman’s column yesterday).

By the way, have I mentioned that I think Herbert’s just getting better and better? He is.

His column is just full of plain language and simple realities. It’s so good, I’m  pasting most of it here to increase the chance you’ll read it.

We can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threaten to blow Iran off the face of the planet. We can conduct a nonstop campaign of drone and helicopter attacks in Pakistan and run a network of secret prisons around the world. We are the mightiest nation mankind has ever seen.

We did this with slide rules and calculators

But we can’t seem to build a railroad tunnel to carry commuters between New Jersey and New York.

The railroad tunnel was the kind of infrastructure project that used to get done in the United States almost as a matter of routine. It was a big and expensive project, but the payoff would have been huge. It would have reduced congestion and pollution in the New York-New Jersey corridor. It would have generated economic activity and put thousands of people to work. It would have enabled twice as many passengers to ride the trains on that heavily traveled route between the two states.

The project had been in the works for 20 years, and ground had already been broken . . .  This is a railroad tunnel we’re talking about. We’re not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It’s a railroad tunnel that’s needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that’s about 100 years old. What is the matter with us?

The railroad tunnel project, all set and ready to go, would have provided jobs for 6,000 construction workers, not to mention all the residual employment that accompanies such projects . . .

There have been many times when the U.S. has stunned the world with the breadth and greatness of its achievements — the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill, the world’s highest standard of living, the world’s finest higher education system, the space program, and on and on.

Somewhere, somehow, things went haywire. The nation that built the Erie Canal and Hoover Dam and the transcontinental railroad can’t even build a tunnel beneath the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York.

10 responses to “Herbert is even better than usual

  1. That column was fantastic. And Herbert – oh yes – is getting better. The fed-up tone and blurting out things is hilarious and brilliant.

    And just a followup/clarification from the other post – the cancelling of a new Hudson Tunnel is a disgrace and disastrous on so many levels – the country is in fact shutting down.
    But,
    Christie is one of the very few who’s doing his job properly and taking real and difficult responsiblity here. As governor he just has a little budget of taxes and federal funds to dole out – and it’s not enough. And he really wants to kill the borrow/spending practices of Bush/Reagan. First move is to stop.
    Then comes the hard part. More income is needed.

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  2. Ms. Holland,

    One of Mr. Herbert’s points is that the tunnel will create 6,000 jobs and will also generate economic activity that will create further jobs. Isn’t that the same logic President Obama used for his $800 Billion Stimulus which put us that far in debt, and did not lower unemployment. Now Obama is crying about the deficit the Bush tax cuts cause. You can’t have it both ways. You guys never care about a deficit if it comes from a stimulus that doesn’t work, yet a tax cut that will work causes you to be deficit hawks. Oh well.

    Thanks to decades of misrule by Democrats, New Jersey is broke. It would be a different story to argue about borrowing for a worthy project if the State were not already in hock.

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  3. [One of Mr. Herbert’s points is that the tunnel will create 6,000 jobs and will also generate economic activity that will create further jobs.]

    Care to explain how 6000 jobs would NOT be created by undertaking an enormous construction project?

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  4. Ms. Holland,

    ” Care to explain how 6000 jobs would NOT be created by undertaking an enormous construction project? ”

    You talkin to me,, she talkin to me. You offering a challenge. ( My Robert De Niro imitation). OK, I graciously accept.

    The money is not free. I know your hero can just call treasury and print it, but it is not free. I know, but Bush spent more on the wars, but the money is not free. That money is somehow, someway, taken from the private sector. Whether you print it, borrow it, tax it, or devalue it, you still have to steal it from the private sector.

    Now bear with me. Look at the record so far. President Obama has run up record deficits, spent record Stimulus and yet $trillions in private capital are sitting in limbo . Just like your Green energy BS, it all sounds great, but fails in the real world. Those $trillions in private capital are infinitely more important to getting jobs created than all of your fantasy infrastructure spending.

    You and Obama cannot just order those $trillions to be unleashed . You think you can. You have to create the right environment. That money will sit because the people who control it know it will be stolen to finance infrastructure and other patronage once they release it.

    If Obama had half the brains Clinton had he’d be set now. Look what Bill got away with just because people were working.

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    • [ Whether you print it, borrow it, tax it, or devalue it, you still have to steal it from the private sector.]

      Is there any other way governments get money? It’s the people who finance government, and of course that includes the private sector.

      [ $trillions in private capital are sitting in limbo ]

      And one big reason is because they fear the demand won’t materialize so they don’t dare invest in people or equipment. That’s to be expected. Until the unemployed have real money in their hands, that demand won’t happen. And until they start shopping again, businesses won’t let any of that jcapital out into the economy.

      And getting money out into the economy, however it’s done, is the single thing that must happen if we’re to recover. This is the time we absolutely must be spenidng (stimulating).

      Krugman today (I know, I know) says:
      “Of the roughly $600 billion cost of the Recovery Act in 2009 and 2010, more than 40 percent came from tax cuts, while another large chunk consisted of aid to state and local governments. Only the remainder involved direct federal spending. ”

      I thought you considered tax cuts stimulative – so why didn’t $200billion (my math sucks and calculator not at hand) in tax cuts stimulate? Or as you might say, where are the jobs?

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  5. Ms. Holland,

    ” I thought you considered tax cuts stimulative – so why didn’t $200billion (my math sucks and calculator not at hand) in tax cuts stimulate? Or as you might say, where are the jobs? ”

    As you said to me once, you are a clever one. Your Party owns the Stimulus . Now you ask me to explain ‘Your’ failure. Your hero totally shut out Republicans from the Stimulus package. Then he lied about it and said he incorporated some of their ideas, yea a couple of small pitiful crumbs.

    And do not hit me with that “Obama has not raised taxes ” line. Yea the tax hikes did not take affect yet. However, and this however is the 600 lb Gorilla, the threat of the 2011 tax hikes is what has stalled the economy in it’s tracks.

    Your Party,, you remember them, the ones with the biggest majorities in Congress since the Stone Age, adjourned with out settling the tax question. With out a budget. It’s one thing to not have a budget when power is split in Congress between the Parties. Your Party controls the Country and did not bother with a budget before the campaign season. That, Ms. Holland, is just another that businesses cannot plan on how to spend capital.

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    • Alan – you didn’t even try to answer or even address my question. $200billion in tax cuts in the stimulus – it’s been over a year, where are all those private sector jobs?

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  6. Ms. Holland,

    ” $200billion in tax cuts in the stimulus – it’s been over a year, where are all those private sector jobs? ”

    Because that was swamped by the other $ 600 Billion in Patronage spending. It also did not help that your hero goes out every other month and bashes the rich. For all of your class warfare, the rich are important. There are hunkered down in their bunkers, not buying yachts, unless it’s John Kerry and then he has his boat built overseas. The rich are not investing, unless you count gold because Obama can’t inflate away it’s value.

    Oh and then there was the moronic ban on offshore drilling. How many well paying jobs did Obama deliberately destroy there? How much oil has to come in from Saudi Arabia to make up for the American oil we don’t have ?

    Then what exactly were the $ 200 billion in tax cuts ? I admit to not knowing. Maybe your hero baked the wrong kind into his porkulus bill. Again, do not ask me for excuses for your man’s failures.

    Now ask me for reasons and it comes down to one word. Incompetence. When he was doing all of his stuff , we told you it would not work. Yes, we told you so.

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  7. [other $ 600 Billion in Patronage spending] – Alan, most of the stimulus actual spending hasn’t happened yet.

    [Oh and then there was the moronic ban on offshore drilling] There was a temporary cessation of only the deepest water drills to check for safety – then they all went back into business. A week before BP Obama came out FOR deep water drilling, for which he was widely criticized. where in the world do you get your ‘facts’?

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  8. Ms. Holland,

    ” There was a temporary cessation of only the deepest water drills to check for safety – then they all went back into business. ”

    I believe you had better check your facts. Only in the last day or two did the ban get lifted and I am somewhat sure it was a lot more than the deepest wells. Those drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico costs hundreds of millions of dollars to build and almost that much to operate. They cannot financially survive sitting idle . Many of them have moved on to foreign oceans . Getting them and their high paying American jobs back to the Gulf is near impossible in the short run.

    ” A week before BP Obama came out FOR deep water drilling, for which he was widely criticized. where in the world do you get your ‘facts’? ”

    I wonder if your side ever gets it 100% right. True your hero did come out for drilling in water just before the disaster and that was bad luck. However, however, however,,, at the same time your hero closed off vast tracks of offshore areas. Those areas just happened to be where the drillers believe the best chance of hitting oil is.

    Now from what universe are your facts beamed in from ?

    Like

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