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Owe, Yes!

By Greg L | 13 December 2010 | Virginia Politics | 5 Comments

I have a hard time finding a qualitative difference between the idea of borrowing money so government can funnel it into what it thinks will stimulate the economy, and the idea of Virginia borrowing billions of dollars in order to fund new transportation projects that it thinks will stimulate the economy, especially given this latest hyperventilation from the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.  Stuff like this feels a lot more consistent with the Hugh Jidette spoof presidential campaign than as a serious policy proposal.

“Far from being a drain or burden, new transportation resources return fiscal benefits to taxpayers far in excess of actually dollars invested,” the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance reports. “The results show that an additional $1 billion invested annually in transportation would create and sustain an additional 18,695 jobs with a total annual payroll of $720.4 million.”

So by this reasoning, if we borrowed eleventeen-hundred gajillion dollars and used the proceeds to build roads and public transit, we’d all become insanely rich.  We’d just borrow our way into prosperity, like that was a viable option.  It makes about as much sense as the Hugh Jidette proposal to convert the national debt to the metric system and instantly cut it by a factor of 2.54.  Seriously, the parallels here are disturbingly uncanny.

Hugh Jidette isn’t concerned with saddling our children and grandchildren with a mountain of debt. After all, what have future generations ever done for us? So what if their taxes will have to double to pay for our debts? And the kids today are geniuses. Have you seen them on their computers? They’ll figure it out.

Creating trillions of dollars in government debt has brought both political parties together in a true show of bipartisanship. It’s a great example of how we can get things done when Americans of all stripes pitch in.

Hugh Jidette wants us to borrow like there’s no tomorrow.

Arguably, so does the current Governor of Virginia.  The guy who tells everyone he’s a conservative at every opportunity.

I “get it” that we have serious issues to address, and I “get it” that construction costs would be lower if we contracted work in this economic climate rather than what that climate might look like a few more years down the road.  Those arguments make sense when you’re sitting on a pile of dough and you’re trying to figure out how to employ it to best effect, which is decidedly not where we’re at right now.  They don’t make a whole lot of sense when you don’t have any dough and start talking about borrowing money in order to do what you can’t currently afford to pull off, and aren’t certain about your ability to service that new debt in the future.

Thanks to the NVTA for serving up such an easy opportunity to throw rocks at their usual silly ideas.  I guess if there’s any good to be had out of this, it is by providing such incontrovertible evidence that the NVTA is a total waste of taxpayer dollars that it should be disbanded.

Now there’s an idea that actually makes some economic sense.



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5 Comments

  1. Scout said on 13 Dec 2010 at 6:52 am:
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    I read the link and saw nothing about borrowing the money. The point of the release was not how one funds capital improvements, but whether the citizens can expect some kind of return on infrastructure investment (whatever the fund source). I guess the question that arises naturally from the Transportation Alliance is whether people agree or disagree with them that these kinds of things do have net positive returns. To test views on this, most of us can readily see that the obverse is true: failure to invest has a daily negative impact on productivity and efficiency in terms of lost time, increased transportation costs, and environmental damage.

    Funding sources for public projects are pretty much limited to taxes, public debt (e.g., as in bond issues), and private/public partnerships, where private markets are asked for contribution in exchange for future toll revenues or similar inducements. It seems that the safe avenue for timid pols is to be against all of these approaches, or, for the slightly more daring to emphasize the last option without being frank about what its out-of-pocket daily costs for the citizens will be. Is the point of the post that we are against only the bond option, or should we simply be against any investment in transportation?

  2. Just the Facts said on 13 Dec 2010 at 8:23 am:
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    This report really is a joke. Thanks for pointing it out, Greg. According to the report, the research was done by Alison Premo Black, vice president of policy and senior economist for the American Road &Transportation Builders Association in Washington, D.C. Have a look at their officers and directors:

    http://www.vtca.org/about_vtca/page/type/vtca_officers_and_directors/

    There’s an objective group of people looking out for the taxpayer rather than themselves!

    This report reflects region-wide thinking the same as drove the Developers’ Road to Nowhere that the PWC Board of County Supervisors voted recently to champion (Stirrup, May and Principi dissenting). That scam developer project, ostensibly going from where Route 234 Business now ends at I-66 to Dulles Airport but actually ending up in a rural area to the west of the airport in Loudoun County, would cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build and do nothing but open the rural area to dense residential development.

    Taxpayers, get out your checkbooks because your bills are going up, along with congestion on the roads and in the schools. Don’t forget about all of the employment opportunities for illegal aliens this Developers’ Road to Nowhere and other projects will create either.

    Note that Corey’s Developers’ Road to Nowhere goes through the Gainesville District (John Stirrup) and that Corey and his developer pals railroaded it through the BOCS over John’s objections. Loudoun County doesn’t want it either.

    To find a more biased group of people with more conflicts of interest than those behind this new report, you would have to look at Corey Stewart’s campaign donor report:

    http://www.vpap.org/candidates/profile/money_in_industry1/61061?end_year=2010&filter_schedule=all&locality=all&lookup_type=year&start_year=2002&zip_code=all

    Note also that Corey is playing the game of misleading campaign finance reports. For example, in his 2010 filings, he reports $20,000 of campaign contributions as coming from Finance and Insurance sources. Of that, $10,000 is from Comstock Partners, identified as “Stockbrokers/Financial Advisors.” Comstock Partners is associated with a major developer and is not a stockbroker or financial advisor in any way as implied by this categorization. Another $10,000 is from an individual, identified as CPA’s/Accountants/Bookkeepers. He is, in fact, the Treasurer and a board member of the Hylton Foundation. Corey, along with John Jenkins, recently championed the “donation” of some undevelopable land on which the Hyltons were paying property tax (they don’t anymore) to the Wartime Museum and transferred usable development rights elsewhere in the County to the Hyltons.

    In a truthful, transparent world, both of these campaign contributions would be classified as coming from development and real estate sources.

    This new report is obviously designed to provide cover for the developer-bought politicians who are trying to get projects approved on their behalf (such as the Prince William/Loudoun County Developers’ Road to Nowhere). How many days until Election Day 2011?

  3. Beau said on 13 Dec 2010 at 10:50 am:
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    Conservatives need to wake up to groups like WashCOG and the NVTA - all they want is money and more money for questionable “regional” efforts and studies on “urban forestry” “childhood obesity” “multimodal travel” “affordable housing”.

    I find it interesting that the liasions from the city and county are all republicans, John Way, Martin Nohe, Cheryl Bass, Corey Stewart, Hal Parrish, why are they not sounding the alarm on all this spend, spend, spend from the dias?

  4. Just the Facts said on 13 Dec 2010 at 1:47 pm:
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    Correction:

    That scam developer project, ostensibly going from where the Route 234 Bypass now ends at I-66 in Gainesville to Dulles Airport but actually ending up in a rural area to the west of the airport in Loudoun County

  5. Muckdog said on 14 Dec 2010 at 10:21 am:
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    The question that must be asked is: Is the transportation network in Virginia adequate? If the answer is yes then it can be a low priority in the state budget. If the answer is no then funding needs to be identified to pay for projects. State government’s use bonds to fund an assortment of projects through out the state for public projects (university buildings, state police facilities, etc.).

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