McDonald’s ‘budget advice’ to employees shows difficulty of fast food wages Tuesday, Jul 16 2013
Sunday Train: 2013 ~ the Year of American Bikeshare Sunday, Jun 16 2013
Economy 8:52 pm
Citi Bike officially launched to annual members on Monday, May 27. As of 5 p.m., members had made more than 6,000 bike trips, and traveled over 13,000 miles - greater than half the Earth's circumference! Visit Citi Bike's blog for more stats, facts and tips.
Membership opens to daily and weekly users on June 2.
Well, it opened to people taking out an annual membership on May 27, but I don't live anywhere near New York, so if I get to use it, it will be as a "daily or weekly" user.
This is not the beginning of Bikeshare in the United States, of course. -- Bikes Belong says of third generation bikeshare systems:
Modern bike sharing programs-large fleets of bicycles designed for low-cost, short-term use and made available at closely spaced rental stations-have the potential to transform American cities. During the past decade, many Europeans cities have successfully implemented large-scale bike share systems, and now U.S. cities are following. The latest, third generation of programs has high-tech checkout and tracking capabilities, giving bike sharing a level of legitimacy that matches other types of public transportation.
Bike Belong reports 2010 as the onset of third generation Bikeshare programs in the United States, bringing us technology developed and elaborated in Europe over the past decade:
During 2010, four major American cities opened third-generation bike sharing programs:
- Denver, CO: B-Cycle - 500 bikes, 50 stations, 102,000 rides in 7 months
- Minneapolis, MN: Nice Ride - 700 bikes, 65 stations, 100,000 trips in 7 months
- Chicago, IL: B-Cycle - 100 bikes, 6 stations
- Washington DC: Capital Bikeshare - 1,100 bikes, 110 stations
The success of these systems-primarily in shifting short trips away from driving-has inspired other American cities to enact bike sharing programs. Programs planned for 2011 and beyond include:
... but although that list gives the original 2012 start for New York City's Bikeshare program, Citi Bike, there was an initial delay, and then Sandy hit New York City, which delayed the introduction of NYC CitiBike:
the New York City Department of Transportation announced today that the bike share system would be delayed once again due to equipment damaged by flooding during the superstorm. [10Dec2012]
Bikeshare is a wonderfully disruptive technology. On the one hand, while a majority of people in the US are car dependent by design of our transportation system, there are still substantial numbers who would be capable of ditching a car entirely if they included cycling to their transport options. However, many of those people do not own a bike, and will never discover that they could be car independent without some way to experience the possibilities of cycle commuting. Bikeshare gives them a chance to dip their toe in the water with no permanent commitment.
At the same time, there are some people who have access to public transport, but the available public transport options do not cover all of their needs. Bikeshare offers substantial flexibility in extending the reach of public transport routes. And those riders that find a mixed public transport / bikeshare trip that meets their needs are also good news for the public transport system. So Bikeshare can act as a recruiter for public transport. Those same people might well be able to get similar flexibility with a folding bike -- but again, the Bikeshare gives them the chance to dip their toe in the water with no permanent commitment.
By its nature, Bikeshare will increase the number of people who cycle for some trips in a city more than it increases total miles traveled by cyclists. Many of those part-time Biekshare users will be motorists at other times. So even for transport cyclists who will never use Bikeshare, Bikeshare increases the number of drivers who have experienced being on the other side of bike/car interactions, which is good news both directly and also politically.
And of course in the large US cities that are introducing Bikeshare systems, Bikeshare is good news for motorists as well, since parking congestion is an ever-present challenge for motorists in large cities, and every person who switches from driving into the city to a trip that includes a Bikeshare leg is one more parking space freed up.
Add in the fact that no petroleum is consumed in the Bikeshare leg of the trip, with a substantial to massive CO2 emissions reduction (the location on the substantial versus massive spectrum depending on how much tithe is paid to factory farms in the course of "fueling" the bike trip), and its a four square combo win-win-win-win.
Oh ... wait, that means its not a win for everybody. There's somebody who loses, which means the Big Oil's pet media outlets have to find some way to attack a win-win-win-win solution. And few media chains are bigger Big Oil pets than Murdoch's NewsCorp empire. So enter the Wall Street Journal.
Insane Mad Hackery and the Wall Street Journal
As reported in the Huff'n'Puff'n'Post,
Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ Editorial Board Member, Freaks Out Over NYC Bike Share Program (VIDEO)
When asked to identify the merits of a bike share program in New York City, Rabinowitz offered this deadpanned response. "Do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians running this government of the city," she said. Rabinowitz added that the "majority of citizens" in New York City are "appalled" by this "dreadful program."
"We now look at a city whose best neighborhoods are absolutely-you know, begrimed, is the word-by these blazing blue Citi Bank bikes-all of the finest, most picturesque parts of the city," she lamented. "It is shocking to walk around the city to see how much of this they have sneaked under the radar in the interest of the environment."
Stephen Colbert chimed in with his support for Dorothy's position (click through to watch)
"I don't see why we need this, folks. We already have a bike program with unlimited access for just the price of bolt cutters.
According to Paul Krugman in Nazi Islamic Bikes From Hell ,
... the absolutely hysterical reaction of right-wingers to the bike program just keeps mounting - and in a way that almost makes the program worth it, all by itself. Not, I hasten to add, because annoying conservatives is the goal per se; instead, what we're getting is a wonderful window into the conservative psyche.
He then quotes from a piece in Front Page Magazine:
Bicycles are one of the obsessions of Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation secretary Janette Sadik-Khan. Khan is the granddaughter of Imam Alimjan Idris, a Nazi collaborator and principle teacher at an SS school for Imams under Hitler's Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini. The bio of his son, Wall Street executive Orhan Sadik-Khan, frequently mentions the bombing of the family home in Dresden and surviving trying times after World War II. It neglects to mention that the times were only trying because their side was losing.
In partial revenge, Khan has made many New York streets nearly as impassable as those of her grandfather's wartime Dresden.
As Krugman points out, if you want an paradigm example of an ad hominem attack ... here you have a perfectly ad hominem attack.
The Opponents of Sustainable Transport
It is great fun to watch Colbert's and read Krugman's reaction to the "Conservative" media machine counter-attack against Bikeshare. However, for those of us interested in finding any conceivable nook or cranny of our transportation system that we can free from the grip of the Big Oil death lobby, one of the more useful pieces generated by this controversy comes from Alon Levy's Pedestrian Observations, who asks, Who are the Opponents of Transportation Alternatives?
There's a real danger in reducing the world to a struggle between Us and Them, in which the bad aspects on the Us side show that people on the Us side need to be nudged in the right direction while the bad aspects on the Them side show that people on that side need to be defeated. ...
What both of those sides - Krugman and the Streetsblog crowd - miss is that there's considerably diversity of opinion in both the Us camp and the Them camp. Although there is something like an Us camp comprising supporters of rail, urban density, and livable streets, there are still sharp internal disagreements that shouldn't be papered over. On the Them side there isn't even a recognizable camp: what do Michele Bachmann, Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Charles Schumer, and Anthony Weiner have in common except their opposition to bikes or transit? Instead of a binary Manichean view it's important to understand that politics, especially urban politics, has multiple factions, of which none can obtain a persistent majority, requiring some measures of negotiation and consensus.
Alon breaks the "Them" opposition into a range of groups. First are the right wing populists, which tends to be anti-urban and pro-road. Second are the non-populist conservatives, who are not uniformly opposed to all transit projects, but tend to oppose having cars pay their fair share for their shifted third party costs. Third are the neoliberal "centrist liberals", who are split -- obviously, Micheal Bloomberg is a "conservative" in any rational "small-c conservative" sense, but a committed advocate for a number of transit improvements, while Cuomo and Schumer are similar neoliberals in many ways but Cuomo steals MTA funding for other purposes and Schumer fights bike lanes in his district, and finally local community board NIMBY opposition to sustainable transport.
Just as a "one size fits all" transport strategy always leaves some people out and only fits well for fairly few, a "one size fits all" strategy for countering opposition cannot conceivably work against this range of opponents.
There is no wedge strategy that can bring right wing populism over to the side of the sustainable transport, when so much of the funding for professional message development and distribution comes from the Big Oil death lobby. And tackling right wing populism by attacking the leaders runs into the dandelion problem, since each one that steps aside opens up space for another one to take their place. So the strategy for weakening right wing populist opposition is to develop a supporting progressive populist support network. This requires one-on-one, grass roots engagement to find those who find some appeal to an anti-corporate message. And, of course, its a long, hard, slog, which could easily take a decade or more to start bearing noticeable fruit.
Money is important with the non-populist "big-C conservatives", as much the money they can make as the money invested in manufacturing their adherence to the radical reactionary agenda. And the same is true of the "small c conservatives" branded as "moderate liberals".
But money also offers substantial opportunities for wedge strategies. The biggest is in the faltering of the 20th century sprawl suburban development money-making game. There is substantial opportunity to extract money from property development games in the coming decade that derives from the the waste and inefficiency built into the current transportation system. That is because transport alternatives that do not place as great a burden on their users can translate into customers who can afford to put more money into real estate. This is also a form of "steal their supporters" strategy, but works through flipping local Chambers of Commerce and local property developer communities, and therefore flipping politicians like Cuomo that take their marching orders, in part, from property developer interests.
For NIMBY opposition, the critical element is finding opportunities to get sustainable transport projects off the ground. This is the "Seeds of Development" strategy. The more on the ground experience in place, the easier it is to recruit and organize YIMBY's -- Yes, In My Backyard -- in local community boards to both offer solutions to the real problems that are likely to be experienced, and to debunk exaggerated or one-sided accounts of the terrible effects of providing alternatives to being shackled to the steering wheel of an automobile.
Of course, one of the critical elements for any multi-pronged strategy is awareness that "your" strategy is not the be-all and end-all, and that there are other approaches that may be of more use for tackling some particular sustainable transport opposition. As effective a rabble-rouser as some anti-Big Oil rabble rouser may be, when trying to win a fight in some civil service bureaucracy regarding a grotesquely bad cost/benefit analysis, you need to call in a transport policy wonk. And no matter how how wonkily appealing some project may be, in making the case to a community board, you need to call in somebody who can give a testimonial based on personal experience in another community that has already taken the plunge.
Alon Levy talks about the way that the supporters of transit are also a heterogeneous mix rather than single bloc, but I will return to this point in a future Sunday Train.
Considerations and Contemplations
As always, the comment section for Sunday Train is an open thread for any discussion of sustainable transport and sustainable energy systems, whether on the topic of the current week's piece or on any other. Please feel free to raise issues, embed youtubes or tweets and cross-link to news and conversations of interest.
And thanks for riding this week's Sunday Train!
Chris Christie To Keep New Jersey Workers On Low Wage Diet. Thursday, Feb 7 2013
The National Memo
In late January, Christie vetoed a small increase in the minimum wage, from the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour. He said that raising the minimum wage would “jeopardize New Jersey’s economic progress.” Christie based his opposition on concerns about small business, although two out of three low-wage workers are employed by corporations with over 100 employees. Read more.
Times Are Tough. Really? Not For The Military Generals. Their Chauffeurs Are Getting New Outfits! Thursday, Dec 20 2012
Facing the end of an era of untrammeled growth in defense spending, officials at the Pentagon have spent most of 2012 telling anyone who will listen how potential budget cuts will put national security in jeopardy. While funds for big ticket military items are under new pressure, however, there’s one thing the Pentagon still has pocket change for: its well-groomed chauffeurs. Read more.
Some Myths About Barack Obama Sunday, Oct 28 2012
Now, I am not even going to touch on the myth that he is actually a communist, Muslim Socialist intent on sending all our children to madrassas to be fitted with suicide bombs. Some idiocy is not even worth addressing which is probably why Obama will not discuss his birth certificate.
But even if you did not believe the President was born in America there are plenty more myths about him now that he has served a term as President. It appears as if many Americans did not live through the same years as me and see the same President. Now, while I know that right-wing lunatics tend to write their own versions of history, varying from state to region some of their impressions of Obama leave me scratching my head.
First, that he is some fire-breathing Socialist hell bent on making this country "Europe", whatever the hell that means. Yes, right-wingers are always railing against Obama and his "radical agenda".
Which begs one question. What radical agenda? Where do these folks see that Obama has embarked on radicalism?? The healthcare system NEEDED to be reformed whether you have insurance or not. Barack Obama showed courage in even taking the political risk to tackle a problem that needed tackling. All along the way he pleaded with the Republicans to come to the table and help him craft a bill.
He compromised single-payer right off the bat. He compromised a public option. He did draw a line in the sand at certain things but he let Republicans and Americans know all along the way that he was willing to work with anyone that had any ideas and try to come to a deal that everyone could live with. However, the problem HAD to be solved or improved.
Republicans could have come to the table, negotiated and attempted to work with a moderate President for a solution to a problem that effected almost all Americans. Instead they embarked on a policy of obstruction to try and make Obama a one-term President. Instead of acting like responsible adults they sent their minions to townhalls to act like ignorant, selfish children. I know this because I was actually disgusted with the President for compromising too much and including too many Republican ideas.
And what of this that President Obama is trying to steal our freedoms and rights?? This is coming from folks who were all for really stealing real rights from Americans. I ask any Republican, when did Obama pass a law to limit civil liberties? When did he pass a law that your government could spy on you. These right-wing zealots need to consider one thing before they accuse Obama of being some radical who hates America and wants to steal their rights. They are right to fear the government stealing their rights and freedoms because it has. Under George W Bush and a Republican Congress. The thought that Obama has done it is merely a myth.
While I could go on all night with this I guess I will end with this one. That Obama is hostile to business and that businesses cannot afford to hire because of the President's policies. If that is true how come he has by far the highest rate of corporate profit growth of any President since 1900 in his term?:
Even adjusted to include the Great Recession he inherited Obama is still better for business than Reagan or either Bush by a longshot:
Even if corporate profits under Obama are compared to the 2008 peak - in order to erase the effect of the financial crisis - "average annual corporate profit growth under President Obama is 6.8%," or nearly three times as large as it was under President Reagan. Both Presidents Bush actually oversaw corporate profit declines during their terms. Meanwhile, real GDP growth per capita is far higher under Obama than it was under either Bush administration.
I think this chart sums up nicely not only who the economy was best under, but who has the much better chance of making our economy work for everyone again:
Now, while this chart compares GDP growth to top marginal tax rates I think it is important to note just where the ecnomy was when Obama took over and where it is now on the far right of the chart. Obama took over a huge mess and although many of his policies have not been enacted he has actually presided over a growing economy.
You can call it "blaming Bush" all you want. The truth is I do not blame Bush. I blame trickle-down economics. The economic theory dreamed up by a few selfish people that fails every time it is tried. It fails for America but income equality in this country shows that it definately did not fail for those who came up with it.
So you can say what you want about Barack Obama. He has been a moderate President that has presided over modest achievements while trying to work with an opposition that was childish, petty and consumed with hate and misinformation. The worst thing America could do would be to replace him with Mitt Romney, who would take us back to the same failed policies Obama has not been allowed to clean up. In all actuality Obama could have been a very effective leader if a very few people would have let him do it.
The last myth of Obama is that he did not at least try.
"Republicans Fight for Small Business" Thursday, Oct 25 2012
2012 elections and American Jobs Act and Barck Obama and Congress and Economy and Jobs and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney and presidential elections and Recovery and Senate and small businesses and Tax Cuts and Trickle-Down Economics 12:46 am
That is because in the last several years Republican obstruction has not only hurt working American families, it has cost those real small business they want you to believe they champion. You see, one truth in some of their talking points is that small businesses are indeed our nations greatest job creators. However in their obstruction far from trying to help these businesses Republicans could not allow legislation to pass that would help them succeed.
All along their plan was to make Obama a one-term President. They did not care who it hurt or what damage it did to our country. That is because they do really only care about 2% of Americans and quite frankly those Americans asses are covered. Yes, even under Barack Obama their profits have mostly rebounded.
And no matter what the Republican propoganda machine chooses to preach President Obama did indeed make a valid attempt to reach out and help real American small businesses and entrepreneurs. In fact he wanted to do it with another thing Republicans are supposed to be all for, tax cuts:
New Tax Cuts to Businesses to Support Hiring and Investment:The President is proposing three tax cuts to provide immediate incentives to hire and invest:
Cutting the Payroll Tax Cut in Half for the First $5 Million in Wages:This provision would cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages, providing broad tax relief to all businesses but targeting it to the 98 percent of firms with wages below this level.
Temporarily Eliminating Employer Payroll Taxes on Wages for New Workers or Raises for Existing Workers:The President is proposing a full holiday on the 6.2% payroll tax firms pay for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year, whether driven by new hires, increased wages or both. This is the kind of job creation measure that CBO has called the most effective of all tax cuts in supporting employment.
Extending 100% Expensing into 2012:The President is proposing to extend 100 percent expensing, the largest temporary investment incentive in history, allowing all firms - large and small - to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment.
No matter whom you support for what, don't these ideas sound like they might could just work? Why would Republicans not want to HELP the President and Democrats in Congress negotiate a policy that would provide real relief and help small businesses create jobs??
There are two reasons. First, the modern Republican Party, led by Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner simply cannot stand to invest in our country or people. They do not mind throwing trillions of dollars away in failed wars, corporate welfare, tax cuts for the very rich, and shipping our jobs overseas exploiting mostly oppressed people but if you mention one word about investing in our own land and people they whine like spoiled, selfish children and employ any method to get their way. To me, it appears as if they are the ones who really hate their country.
Secondly they could not allow these policies to be enacted to help real small businesses startup and hire because they did not want that to happen. If measures were enacted that actually cleaned up the mess made by George W. Bush and a Republican Congress in the last decade then folks would see that trickle-down is indeed a fraud and Progressive policies can indeed uplift a large majority of Americans.
As with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama has been a very moderate President. Both of these men reached out to, tried to include and compromised with Republicans. They both alienated their own base to try and represent all Americans. We all know what happened to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama has been one of the most vilified and smeared Presidents in history.
But its all a means to an end for Republicans. Their "leader" told us all that they were going to make America suffer for electing Barack Obama and daring to challenge their right to continue picking us clean with their trickle-down idiocy:
It has nothing to do with "Conservatism" or patriotism or anything else. It is all to do with greed. A very few people have reaped the only rewards of the last thirty years and have horded our nation's wealth to themselves. They do not care who has to suffer or how many times they crash the economy as long as they can keep trickle-down in effect and keep the party swinging for themselves.
That is how Republicans fight for small businesses.
The Reasons Mitt Romney Can’t Tell You the Truth Thursday, Oct 4 2012
Remember how Romney wanted to give the states more responsibilities in making decisions about healthcare among other things? What he convieniently left out is that states are in no position whatsoever to do anything and his plan would make the situation worse:
My colleagues Josh Bivens and Andrew Fieldhouse recently released a report finding that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's budget plan would reduce employment by between 550,000 and 1.9 million jobs over the next two years relative to current policy, depending on whether his tax cut is deficit-financed or fully paid for with base-broadening. This job loss is overwhelmingly fueled by his proposal to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP.
But the impact of any fiscal plan goes beyond the job impact-after all, a little over 17 percent of non-interest federal spending flows directly to states (e.g., matching funds for Medicaid and unemployment insurance), and with a half trillion dollars in cumulative shortfalls that states have faced in the last few years and another $55 billion in shortfalls faced this year, states would have difficulty handling another blow to their budgets. So how would Romney's proposed spending cap affect state budgets?
To make this calculation, I started with the U.S. Census Bureau's Annual Survey of State Government Finances, which shows total expenditures and federal transfers to state governments, each by state. I then applied the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' estimate that a 20 percent cap on spending would require a 32 percent across-the-board cut by 2016 to all programs save Social Security, Medicare, and core Department of Defense spending (essentially excluding war costs) to the federal transfers for the estimated cut in transfers by state. I divided the estimated cut by each state's total expenditure and also included the cut as a share of each state's general fund (data from National Association of State Budget Officers) because generally, state budget shortfalls are calculated as a share of the general fund.
What I found is that a majority of states would see federal funding losses equal to at least 9 percent of their total expenditures, which translates into about 20 percent of their general fund (see map below). The darker the state, the higher the fiscal hit. The worst-hit state is Louisiana, which would see a funding loss of 12.3 percent of their total spending. However, as a share of their general funds, Vermont and Michigan fare the worst, with fund loss over 60 percent of their general fund (or 9.2 and 8.8 percent of their total expenditures, respectively).
So what else is Romney not telling anyone? Well the truth of the matter is that Romney's tax cuts for himself and his ilk will not be paid for by economic growth. Not even close:
His campaign states that this new tax cut will be fully paid for with a combination of tax expenditure limitations on high earners, spending cuts, and economic growth. We don't know the details of the tax expenditure limitations, but we do know that the Feldstein proposal-popular in conservative circles-would only cover about 15 percent of the cost of these new tax cuts, and likely less. His spending cuts are already more than offset by his previous tax cuts, so that's out. That leaves economic growth.
Problem is, there's no way his tax cuts can generate enough additional economic growth (and associated revenue) to cover anywhere near 85 percent of these tax cuts' price tag. Even the most favorable studies, with the most favorable assumptions, find that economic growth effects may offset a maximum of 10-20 percent of tax cuts' static cost. Under the George W. Bush administration, the Treasury Department found that the Bush-era tax cuts recouped only 7-10 percent of their cost through macroeconomic effects. The Congressional Budget Office, under noted Republican and supply-sider Douglas Holtz-Eakin, found that the economic impact of a hypothetical across-the-board tax cut could only cover 19 percent at best (more if it were financed by tax increases after 10 years, but Romney's anti-tax pledge rules that out) and -3 percent at worst (in this case, the tax cut would be a net drag on the economy). Most tellingly, Romney's own economic advisor, Greg Mankiw, found that a hypothetical cut to ordinary income rates would offset less than 15 percent of its own cost over 10 years.
And each of those estimates assumes that households have unlimited foresight (likely false) and ignore the long-run impact of budget deficits on the economy by magically assuming that the deficit is stabilized. Estimates using more realistic assumptions often find that permanent, deficit-financed tax cuts skewed to high-income taxpayers actually slow long-run growth.
Yes indeed. Just like everytime trickle-down is attempted all of America, the economy and everyone but those very few that can afford to sit and listen to how worthless Romney thinks the rest of us are suffer.
But of course for Mitt Romney and his ilk the good times simply roll on at the cost of everyone else. Mitt Romney does not give a damn about his country, or any of us within if we come between him and the greed of those he "leads":
The Bush tax cuts-estimated to have added $2.6 trillion to public debt from 2001-2010-boosted the after-tax income of filers by an average of 3.2 percent in 2011, but this average is overwhelmingly driven by the top of the income distribution, according to the Tax Policy Center. While the Obama administration is proposing to roll back these tax cuts for the top two brackets beginning in 2013 (affecting around 2 percent of filers), congressional Republicans are adamant about keeping the cuts in place for those at the top of the income distribution. The graph below illustrates the difference between the administration's desired policy for the top two brackets and the policy supported by most congressional Republicans. For tax units (either an individual or a married couple who file a tax return jointly, along with all dependents included on the tax return) in the top 1 percent of the cash income distribution (income break at $569,944),1 this policy difference means an average cut of almost $25,000 in 2013 alone. For tax units in the top 0.1 percent of the cash income distribution (income break at $2,474,273), this policy difference means an average cut of around $140,000 in 2013.
Keeping the Bush tax cuts in place for the top two brackets is extraordinarily expensive. Furthermore, targeting tax cuts to the highest earners is poor economic stimulus. High-income individuals are less likely to spend extra dollars of disposable income; Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi estimates that making the Bush tax cuts permanent would generate only 35 cents in economic activity for every dollar in forgone revenue. Other targeted credits, meanwhile, could have much higher economic impact.
So you see there is a very good reason why Romney lies and refuses to tell Americans the truth of his plans. He can't. He is a self-serving narcissist that does not care one iota about anyone or anything if he is asked to sacrifice or show any fairness whatsoever towards his fellow Americans.
A debate victory still cannot erase the ugly stain of a selfish liar.
Sunday Train: zOMG these aint REAL HSR trains! Sunday, Aug 12 2012
Economy 7:39 pm
This is more or less the three year anniversary of the first Sunday Train ~ a bit less than more, since this is the 12th of August 2012 and I think that the first Sunday Train was 16th of August, 2009. It emerged from a variety of blogging I had been doing over the previous couple of years, with a notion that if I set down a target of blogging on Sunday, it would make it easier for people to track the Sunday Train down. It was originally posted at my midnight-populist blogspot, Burning the Midnight Oil, crossposted to Agent Orange, My Left Wing, Progressive Blue and Docudharma, but I was never really enthusiastic about building up my own blog, and nor about the constraints of blogspot, so over time I settled on writing the Sunday Train at a community blog, cross-posting it to other community blogs, and posting the summary to Burning the Midnight Oil, with cross-links to the blogs containing that week's full post.
The crosspost list also varied from time to time: of those original community blogs, I rarely visit My Left Wing or Docudharma much anymore, and the best of Progressive Blue has been folded into the broader coalition at Voices on the Square, which since its launch last month has been the new home base for Sunday Train. The Sunday Train still rolls into Agent Orange (aka "daily kos"), and has for some time also stopped at Hillbilly Report and the Stars Hollow Gazette, and occasionally at the European Tribune.
In celebration of the three year anniversary, more or less, I am reprinting the diary from the 16th August, 2009, "zOMG, these aint REAL HSR trains!"
Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence, crossposted from MyLeftWing please subscribe
I've seen this before ... indeed, it was mentioned recently in some discussion threads of Libertarians Against Choice ... the effort to play divide and conquer by arguing "if it doesn't go 220mph, it isn't worth doing".
John Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune asked last Monday Are 110mph trains on the right track? (secondary link - trouble w/primary), establishing at the outset the false frame that 110mph and 220mph trains are two different "tracks" and we have to choose between them.
This is, of course, nonsense. Indeed, the first generation of bullet trains were 125mph trains, which is the second tier of the three-tier Department of Transport system.
However, there may be more going on here than just the run of the mill "make stuff up based on my uninformed reaction without finding out the facts" that seems to dominate the op-ed pages.
Where does this meme come from? Some of it is a natural reaction. "110mph? How fast do those European trains go? Why can't we go that fast?" But some of it is clearly cultivated, since I see it in the writings of anti-HSR propagandists like O'Toole, where we find in a mix of facts, half-truths, red herrings and outright lies the following argument:
The FRA is not proposing to build 200-mph bullet trains throughout the U.S. Instead, in most places it is proposing to upgrade existing freight lines to allow passenger trains to run as fast as 110 mph - which means average speeds of only 55-75 mph. This would actually be slower than driving for anyone whose origin and destination are not both right next to a train station.
The first distortion here is the misleading pretense that the FRA is proposing the corridors. This is simply not the way the process works. Instead, a state or a group of states proceeds with preliminary planning, including identifying potential ridership and identifying potential alignments. As part of the process of getting ready to apply for Federal funding, any alignment that is not yet part of an existing Dept. of Transport HSR corridor needs to apply to be added to a corridor (or designated as a new corridor - under the original Clinton-era HSR legislation, Congress has one more corridor designation available to hand out).
So the "corridor map" you see around is not the result of some top-down master rail planner somewhere ... but of a bottom-up process. When people ask questions like, "why isn't Atlanta / Chattanooga / Nashville on that map?" ... the answer is because Tennessee has not made the progress required to get it on the map.
The second distortion is the unstated suggestion that the only competitive advantage that rail can have over cars in transport markets is faster speed ... because after all, nobody ever takes passenger trains that are slower than driving.
Except, of course, they do ... experience in several states, including HSR funding applicants California and Illinois, is that providing more frequent and more reliable conventional rail results in increased patronage ... even though it is quite often a bit faster for those same passengers if they drive.
The third distortion is a 50:50 mix of outright lie and red herring. As described in technical detail in this report on tilt-train technology from Sweden (pdf), when a track is shared with slower speed trains, and the track is banked for the slower speed trains - and this is essential when the slower trains include heavy freight, with their axle loads of up to 33 short tons - that means that curves impose a speed limit on trains, even if trains have a much higher top speed.
In fact, four factors interact: distance between stations, top speed, power of the locomotive, and the banking possible around curves. The closer stations are together, the more important a powerful locomotive becomes, because so much time is spent pulling out of stations ... but once stations are over 4 miles to 12 miles apart (depending on the tightness of the curve), the ability to tilt is more important.
So if you run a conventional train with a locomotive that can reach 110mph then it is perfectly reasonably to say that trip speed will be 55mph-75mph. However, with stations 30 miles apart or more, as in the Ohio Hub and Midwest Hub plans, and if tilt-train technology is used, the fastest trip speeds rise to the range of 85mph. If the line is then electrified, which increases acceleration and deceleration, that top speed can exceed 90mph.
Indeed, O'Toole is either confused or bullshitting when he says (p. 9):
It is unlikely that moderate-speed train operations will save any energy at all. Such trains will mostly be Diesel-powered, and increasing speeds from 79 to 110 mph will significantly increase the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of those trains. Saving energy requires that trains accelerate slowly and coast into stations rather than brake heavily, but such practices reduce the time savings offered by higher top speeds.
... since the primary factor determining the energy efficiency of intercity rail is the load factor ... the percentage of time that the average seat is occupied. Even Diesel 110mph tilt-trains have better fuel efficiency per seat-mile than cars do, so as long as their load factor is higher than that of cars, they are saving energy.
And how do you get load factors up? Well, consider the Triple-C corridor, from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati. At 79mph, that is two main transport markets - Cleveland/Columbus and Columbus/Cincinnati. At well over 3 hours, Cleveland/Cincinnati, the end to end trips fall outside of the day trip market, which is a strategic threshold for attracting riders from a wide range of market niches. The typical seat will either by occupied twice, or will be occupied for one leg but not the other.
At 110mph, Cleveland/Cincinnati comes into range for the day trip market. That increases ridership, and in particular increases the seats that are sold to be occupied for 100% of the route. And it also increases the frequency of rail services that can be offered, which makes it easier to match up to periods of stronger transport demand. And, of course, more frequent services means it is easier to use discounts to shift price sensitive passengers onto services with less demand, making room on the high demand services for the departure/arrival sensitive passengers ...
... all of which translates into higher load factors.
O'Toole is, of course, not interested in actually analyzing energy efficiency ... his interest is coming up with arguments against the HSR policy. But the point of interest for this post is the way that he works to divide Emerging HSR from Express HSR, which is presented as better than Emerging HSR (albeit "probably not good enough"):
True high-speed trains save energy by using lighter equipment, but the energy cost of higher speeds party offsets the savings from hauling less weight. Any remaining operational savings are not likely to be sufficient to recover the huge amounts of energy consumed and greenhouse gases released during construction of new rail lines.72
(Also note here the talking point on CO2 construction parroted by Freakonomist Ed Morris, despite the fact that he was citing a source that debunked the claim.)
Emerging HSR and Express HSR Are The Same Track
So, the Libertarian anti-rail propagandists are out there spreading the talking point that "and most of these are not 'real' HSR anyway", aided and abetted by Express HSR enthusiasts who have fallen into the trap of talking down one option as a means to boost the chances of another one.
But it just does not hold water. Well chosen 110mph routes will be able to generate operating surpluses, so once they are up and running, they will not be fighting against other transport for public funds. Indeed, they will be able to support revenue bonds for their own capital improvements ... including, importantly, electrification.
By sharing stations with cross-cutting Emerging HSR corridors, Express HSR stations will have substantially more reach by supporting Emerging HSR / Express HSR transfer passengers.
Indeed, just as in France, once the 110mph corridors have been electrified, then a single 220mph corridor can host multiple services that continue beyond the end of the 220mph corridor to various points on the main inter-urban network. While they would not operate at the same speed as a train designed for those routes, they will benefit from the increased capacity and untangling of freight trains and passenger trains that has been undertaken for the Emerging HSR services.
Also, the process of establishing the 110mph Emerging HSR corridors will include untangling bottlenecks that currently plague express intercity services running through our major metropolitan areas. It is not critical for the Express HSR service to run through the densely populated core of major metropolitan areas at full speed ... but it is critical to have unimpeded access. Indeed, one of the reasons that the French HSR corridors were so financially successful is that they were able to leverage the existing infrastructure to allow Express Intercity services into major metropolitan areas, so 220mph corridor construction could be focused in the countryside where it was much less expensive.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a program focusing on Express HSR alone faces extreme political vulnerability. Competing against heavily subsidized interstate road and air infrastructure, Express HSR corridors will require substantial up-front capital subsidies. Relying on development of new rights of way, completely grade separated from the existing road and rail networks, these systems can take a decade or more to build. And under current conditions, relatively few states would be likely to participate in the first round of corridors ... a special concern given that the US Senate is normally where progressive policies go to die.
However, when all the types of rail services that offer substantial improvements on what is presently available are collected together into a single package, the result is much more politically robust. Over 70% of the states can make a quite serious and reasonable case for inclusion in some form of "Higher Speed Rail" corridor, whether Emerging HSR, Regional HSR or Express HSR ... and, indeed, over 60% have already done so, at least to the point of gaining corridor designation for their starter lines.
And unlike Express HSR, the Emerging HSR corridors can deliver results much more quickly, with many of the ones that have already completed their environmental impact statements able to go from funding to running services in three to four years time. And the ongoing launching of services in various parts of the country will naturally lead to cries of, "why not us?" ... which lays the foundation for maintaining the ongoing funding required to construct the Express HSR corridors.
What is the Strategic Point
And that would seem to be the strategic point behind that particular Libertarian talking points - divide and conquer. Whenever "the other side" is stronger in coalition than separately, it should be expected that part of the attack is an effort to wedge the coalition apart.
And the particular appeal of this particular wedge strategy is the fact that you can get Express HSR enthusiasts to do some of your dirty work for you. Despite that fact that a "standalone Express HSR" policy will not be able to deliver as much money for Express HSR as the coalition strategy will do, there will always be those who fall into the trap of seeing the funding going to Emerging HSR and Regional HSR and think, "why, they shouldn't get that money, we should".
And so all that the Libertarians propaganda mills need to do for this particular talking point to take a life of its own is to encourage the politically naive among Express HSR supporters in that misguided jealousy.
You Can Help
At the shallow end of the pool, you can subscribe and contribute to promoting other versions of this diary, at Docudharma, ProgressiveBlue in addition to MLW, and the original draft at Burning the Midnight Oil. In the deeper end, but not too deep, join an organization fighting for a more Energy Independent transport system ... Transportation For America, the National Association of Rail Passengers, the US HSR Association and/or a local Citizen Rail Group (links courtesy NARP)
The Republican Runaround on Jobs Friday, Jul 27 2012
The report was indeed not very good:
The report from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. economy slowed in the second quarter amid weak consumer spending, government cuts and a rise in imports from foreign countries.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, grew at an annual rate of 1.5% from April to June, the Commerce Department said, down significantly from a 2% rate in the first three months of the year.
And predictably Republicans in all their hypocritical, self-righteous glory were on the attack:
"Instead of spending his time fighting for American jobs, President Obama is working desperately to save his own," Priebus continued, "As a result, 23 million Americans are struggling for work. We need a new president who understands how the economy works and who will make job creation his number one priority. Mitt Romney will be that president."
"President Obama has been claiming that his economic policies have 'worked.' This morning's GDP numbers suggest otherwise," former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty wrote in a statement from Romney's team. "It seems that the President's poor stewardship of the economy is only going to come to an end when his term comes to an end. Instead of generating growth and jobs, he has only generated uncertainty. Let's hope that the President finds the time amid his busy fundraising schedule to meet with his Jobs Council at least on one more occasion in what remains of his failed presidency."
A new President that understands how the economy works? Well, when one starts running I wish these Republicans would let me know. All Romney and his ilk seek is a return to the trickle-down idiocy that got us here in the first place. Only this time on steroids.
Look again at the two driving factors behind the weak GDP report besides consumer spending. Government cuts and a rise in imports. Both are things Republicans hold dear. Slashing the social safety net for Americans and creating jobs in China. Is that really what America wants to go back to??
My question to Mr. Pawlenty and any other Republican is this. If your policies and ideas are so great why have they not worked? Despite your bluster Obama has changed little and gave you your precious tax cuts the first time around. For the most part "trickle-down" has been in effect since Reagan and you know what?? The simple fact is it was a dismal failure or we would not even be to this point right now.
Then when working Americans needed relief what did Republicans do? After jumping through hoops to bail out the bankers they did everything in their power to water down the stimulus that would have bailed out average Americans. When Americans desperately needed jobs, they took the coward's way out and filibusted the American Jobs Act:
U.S. Senate Republicans, joined by one Democrat and one Independent, Thursday blocked a proposal President Barack Obama said would "put Americans back to work."
The Senate voted 51-49 in favor of a procedural motion on the bill, which would spend $60 billion on transportation and infrastructure. However, 60 votes were required to break a GOP filibuster on the bill.
It was the third time in recent weeks Republicans were able to block measures that had been components of the American Jobs Act, initially proposed by the administration as a comprehensive, $447 billion package intended to boost hiring and give money to states to hire teachers and public safety workers.
But you see in the world of the modern Republican bankers are a worthy investment. They can crash the economy and cost you your job but they are still better than you. You deserve nothing and should lose any government aid you have to fall back on.
Just what would the American Jobs Act have done for GDP?? EPI released this summary soon after the President announced his plans:
The table below shows a preliminary breakdown of the package and a first pass look at the job impact (we'll revise and update as more details are released). The plan includes $162 billion for the continuation of the payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment insurance benefits, and $285 billion for other new measures, including the expansion of the payroll holiday (to a 3.1 percentage point reduction and to employers), infrastructure investments, aid to states and localities, school construction, etc.
Overall the package would increase employment by about 4.3 million jobs over the next couple of years. The new initiatives would boost employment by about 2.6 million jobs, while the continuation of the two temporary provisions (EUI and the payroll tax holiday) would prevent a backslide of over 1.6 million jobs.
And this chart:
Even non-partisans agreed:
A tentative thumbs-up.
That was the assessment Thursday night from economists, who offered mainly positive reviews of President Barack Obama's $447 billion plan to stimulate job creation.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, estimated that the president's plan would boost economic growth by 2 percentage points, add 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment by a full percentage point next year compared with existing law.
But what do the Republicans have to offer instead of the Obama plan?? It seems if they were so dead-set to sink the President's plan they would have one of their own. Well, unfortunately for Americans, they did:
The GOP jobs package, which currently includes 32 bills, represents Republicans' hallmark legislative accomplishment over the past two years. In the months ahead of the election, they will lean on it as proof of two things: that they are not the do-nothing obstructionists that Democrats paint them as, and that they are working hard to address the 8.2 percent unemployment rate.
But there's a problem with their jobs bills: They don't create jobs. At least, they won't any time soon.
"A lot of these things are laughable in terms of a jobs plan that would produce noticeable improvements across the country in the availability of employment in the next four or five years," said Gary Burtless, a senior economist at Brookings. "Even in the long run, if they have any effect all, it would be extremely marginal, relative to the jobs deficit we currently have."
Yes, it would appear that if you really wanted to create jobs your "jobs package" would actually attempt to do that instead of just throwing more money away to your special interest buddies:
"They are very narrowly targeted, and it gives the impression that maybe some of this is special interest really pursuing these, not really taking a macro view but a very, very micro focus in what the impact would be," Riccadonna said. For most of the bills in the package, "jobs are a second- or third-order effect, not the main priority."
So while their "leader" Mitt Romney is overseas making a fool of himself his Republican Righteous Flock is circling America making fools of themselves and desperately hoping to make fools of all of us again. They may think that the GDP numbers prove their point but it actually proves ours.
Republicans could care less about our economy as a whole and whether jobs are created for Americans. The policies they have and will try are a dismal failure. You do not have to take our words for it, just look all around you. Their insanity is why we are here to begin with.
The truth is that Republicans have blocked anything that would America as a whole. They did so because they are desperately afraid someone else will benefit from the actions of government. After crashing our economy with their failed policies they had one single goal. To hell with America, they were determined to make Obama a one-term President so they could continue their raping and murdering of the American middle-class:
A fitting goal for a party of vultures, leeches and vampires.
Mexico, The United States, Crony Capitalism And the 1% Exploitation of Labor Through NAFTA Sunday, Jul 15 2012
I wonder if Carlos Slim sent Bill (I love NAFTA) Clinton a thank you card?
Mark Karlin, Truthout: "Free trade, such as NAFTA, is a way of exploiting labor without national boundaries and ravaging the environment in pursuit of higher corporate profits. Borders only exist for poor migrants seeking money to keep themselves and their families alive. The victims of this trade policy - and its synergistic companion, crony capitalism - eke out an existence on both sides of the Mexican-United States border.... There is no border wall for economic injustice." Read more.