Whose Funds?

Peruse the news for not a very long time and you will inevitably stumble upon one or more of the following lines:

“The project will be 80% paid for by a federal grant.”

“FEMA has pledged to help rebuild the community.”

“The governor plans to ask for federal funds to pay for the new program”.

Or this one, taken from the web site for the Indianapolis Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle:

“Construction of the Red Line is being funded primarily through a $75 million federal Small Starts grant. Additional federal resources are being provided through a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant already in place.” (emphases mine)

These claims, and all other like them, work from the same basic premise: Federal funds are being used to offset local funds. The federal funds are presented as free, so what would have cost $100 million now “only” costs $20 million. It’s as if the federal government is a distant rich uncle who just writes checks from a large mountain of cash, saving the locals from horrible bills.

The reality is different. Yes, the federal government does have a large mountain of cash, but that cash comes from you and me in the form of taxes. In fact, because of our insane levels of debt and ongoing deficit spending, the cash comes from you, me, our children, our grandchildren, and likely their children and grandchildren. What is presented as free is anything but.

Without delving into the argument of whether the good citizens of Alaska should be forced to pay for Indy’s bus system, what would happen if the example paragraph above was rewritten as follows:

“Construction of the Red Line is being funded primarily through a $75 million of taxpayer-funded ‘Small Starts’ grant. Additional taxpayer resources are being provided through the taxpayer-provided Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant already in place.”

It reads a bit differently, doesn’t it? Would it make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not at first. But over time, as people look at everything that is being paid for by the federal government taxpayers, some will question why? Why are we paying for a bus system few will use? Or a new convention center? Or an arts center? Or surplus cheese? Or a glow-in-the-dark marijuana joint on a billboard?

Because proponents of massive government work in the media, don’t expect to see this anytime soon. But you, dear reader, can train your mind. When you see “federal program”, replace with “taxpayer” and see how you feel about paying for the program in question. You will find yourself questioning a great deal of that is being done for “free”.



There’s no free treat under there


Denver’s Boondoggle. Coming to Indy?

I’ll say this much for central planners: They never stop.

I spent most of my life in the Denver area, and I saw first hand how the planned transportation people work. After suffering a thorough repudiation to light rail in 1997, commuting planners showed up with a bucket full of “free” federal funds to build a “demonstration” project between downtown and the Five Points neighborhood. This was followed in 2000 by the “T-Rex” project that expanded I-25 south of downtown (very much needed) and included, again with “free” federal funds, a shiny new light rail system. The fact that no one rode the thing except to Broncos and Rockies games didn’t matter; the project was deemed an instant success. And having shown that light rail “works”, the planners returned to voters in 2004 and, viola!, got their massive boondoggle passed. So now light rail runs hither and yon throughout the Denver metro area, still mostly empty except for sporting events.

The same philosophy used to ram light rail down the throats of Denver commuters appears to be at play in my new home of Indianapolis. The do-gooders who want to save the planet by herding us all into mass transit are procuring – wait for it – “free” federal funds to build a bus rapid transit line from north Indy through downtown to South Indy. Yet here, as in Colorado, the vast majority of commuters drive suburb-to-suburb. Put another way, no one will ride this system save for those who already ride the bus. Indeed, among the opponents of this boondoggle are current bus riders, who would just as soon have more normal buses.

Time will tell, of course, if the camel-nose-under-the-tent strategy works as well here as it did in Denver. One obstacle is a state law that forbids light rail in the greater Indianapolis metropolitan area, but that law is under siege as the area courts Amazon. Good luck with that, folks – Amazon is not coming here, rail or not. Having witnessed the billions wasted on rail in Colorado, I sincerely hope I don’t see a repeat here. It’s not needed, it’s not wanted, and it won’t be used. Save your money, Hoosiers.


The transit planners: They absolutely will not stop…ever, until you are broke!