Sunday’s N&O offered up a thoughtless attack on HB 422, and its most vocal proponent, Rep. Ric Killian (R-Mecklenburg).
Perhaps it’s a tea-party moment, who knows? But Charlotte state Rep. Ric Killian seems to be taking an ideological stance against more federal spending on railroads even though the $461 million coming to North Carolina in federal stimulus funds would benefit his own constituents. It also would employ, a representative of general contractors in the state says, 13,000 to 15,000 people in “direct and indirect jobs.”
But Killian is against better railroads and more routes and less road congestion and pollution and faster trains connecting areas of the state to one another.
Actually, Killian is not against those things at all. Supporters of HB 422 recognize that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and accepting federal funds for high speed rail will certainly come at a cost. That the N&O editors wish away these costs and can visualize only the benefits shows they once again fail the centuries-old litmus test seperating a good economist and a bad economist – taking into consideration not only the seen but the unseen effect of an economic act.
First the N&O overlooks the highly likely scenario that these rail projects will incur significant cost overruns. Government-funded rail boondoggles often do, and being from Mecklenburg County, Killian is all too familiar with that scenario. Supporters of HB 422 are concerned about North Carolinians being forced to finance these overruns. That’s one price we may have to pay for this “free lunch.”
But what about those jobs?
But there are many thousands of people in North Carolina who have no job at all right now, whom it might help. And these “temporary” jobs would be fairly long-lasting, give the time needed to finish such projects.