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Published On: Wed, May 16th, 2012

Krugman, ‘National Greatness,’ and Boondoggles

One of the mantras for the Neo-Conservatives has been “national greatness,” which means that America ought to be producing huge, expensive public works projects. (One gets the sense that William Kristol and David Brooks wistfully see the Pyramids in Egypt and wish that we could leave something similar for future generations.)

Now Paul Krugman is taking that one step further, arguing that big public transportation projects are a sign of “national greatness,” and that people like Gov. Chris Christie are cheating us of a future by engaging in “cannibalism.” Yes, the same Paul Krugman who is calling for big increases in inflation, the same Paul Krugman who demands that the Obama government increase its rate of borrowing, the same Paul Krugman who has called for the Federal Reserve System to engage in the worst kind of financial trickery by buying short-term Treasuries, is now complaining that Christie’s refusal to commit future generations of New Jersey taxpayers to massive cost overruns via a rail tunnel actually is an example of “cannibalizing the future.”

I must admit that Krugman’s audacity is breathtaking. Not building the rail tunnel, according to Krugman will “strangle the state’s economy” as though all of New Jersey depends upon one rail tunnel to be operated by a government agency. Krugman writes:

America used to be a country that thought big about the future. Major public projects, from the Erie Canal to the interstate highway system, used to be a well-understood component of our national greatness. Nowadays, however, the only big projects politicians are willing to undertake — with expense no object — seem to be wars. Funny how that works.(Emphasis mine)

Throughout the column today, Krugman goes on and on about how passenger rail projects present a wonderful future and that anyone who is against them must be evil. He declares:

One answer is that the governor is widely assumed to have national ambitions, and the Republican base hates government spending in general (unless it’s on weapons). And it hates public transportation in particular. Indeed, three other Republican governors — in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin — have also canceled public transportation projects supported by federal funds.

What Krugman does not tell us is that projections of the Florida rail project from Orlando to Tampa (for which the feds promised the state $3 billion) were such that Florida taxpayers would be stuck paying billions of dollars more for the project that would have become a high-cost boondoggle. The non-Krugman account is found here.

Then there is California, something Krugman has not mentioned. In that situation, the Holy Democrats, which run the state and are engaging in fiscal cannibalism of their own in propping up the state’s government employee unions, have engaged in utter financial nonsense in promoting the “Bullet Train” from San Francisco to San Diego. The report is here. Steven Greenhut has more on the California rail rip-offs. (And even Slate gets into the act.)

My guess is that Krugman is like many Progressives in that he has a wonderful future planned for the Great Unwashed who now commit the sin of driving cars and shopping at Wal-Mart. Granted, he has no plans to take part in that future, which is reserved for the ignorant mundanes who need to be saddled with massive and unpayable debts, which would cannibalize their own futures.

But, why should the mundanes be permitted at all to plan for themselves? No, they need Paul Krugman and the Progressives to do that for them.

Check out the “Krugman in Wonderland” posts here the Disptach – click here


William L. Anderson is an author and an associate professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland. He is also an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as for the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama.

Read more at “Krugman-in-Wonderland”

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About the Author

- William L. Anderson is an author and an associate professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland. He is also an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as for the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama.

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