Posturing for Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

By Ted Dieck | Recruiter’s View - Employment Scene - Political Commentary | Jan 28, 2010

President Obama flies to Florida today to unveil plans for a high speed rail system. Local voters have already reversed a similar mandate, because high speed rail physically doesn’t work here. Obama promises to spend billions anyway.

Following last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama flew down to Florida this morning to create jobs, jobs, jobs. He is scheduled to promise $1 billion for a high speed train system in a state that has a lot of electoral votes.

According to reports, the first tracks would run a whole 84 miles, all the way from Tampa to Orlando, with additional funding for a run from Orlando to Miami. (Did I hear $5 billion for that?)

It’s a happy vision that gives the Chinese the opportunity to loan us even more money we don’t have in order to create (did I say it?) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!  

Since I’m frequently explaining the high speed train story to folks who don’t happen to live here, I’ll write it down now, so we can refer to it from time to time.

Here’s Florida’s recent train story, as best I can relate it…

The great citizenry of Florida thought it would be dandy to get a high speed rail system to zip people around the state. No longer would we have the slow passenger trains that nobody rides. We would have fast trains that people wouldn’t ride. (Let’s be honest. Folks fly here from New York, spend the week, and fly back. They don’t do a lot of hopping from city to city, once they hit the beach.)

So, with a mandate firmly in place, and the funding confirmed, a commission was created to find the best possible route for the new high speed rail system that we were absolutely going to build.

Imagine, if you will… Along the east coast, we have what’s called the Atlantic Ocean. It occupies everything on the right. In the middle, we have high density population areas. On the left, we have the Everglades. It’s a swamp.

As it turns out, we already have a HUGE rail system. The astronomical amount of cargo that comes in from ocean shipping goes from the shore to the rails. Enormous freight trains run the length of Florida all day, every day.

Freight trains, by the way, are completely different from passenger trains. For one thing, the track bed is graded differently.

So, the commission studied every route they could find. Where should we plan for the new rail system? Can’t run it up the beach. Can’t go through high population areas. Can’t put it in the swamp. And we really can’t cut across existing freight lines, expressways, and airports.

Basically, after a valiant effort, the commission said there’s no place to put a high speed rail system in southern Florida. On the one side, you’ve got all the passengers, but you couldn’t lay the track. On the other side, you could lay the track, but it would be too far from the passengers.

Oh, yeah, and the cost would make your head spin. And we should really just forget about it.

The good citizens had another vote, and killed the program. No high speed rail system. Don’t do it. Don’t want it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

Thank You, Mr. President – So, today, I am tremendously impressed with the symbolism of President Obama’s visit to Florida. In one quick visit, he will propose to create jobs by spending money we don’t have on something we don’t want. He’ll suggest that we burn billions by putting something that won’t work in a place that it shouldn’t be.

There is one saving grace, however. Based on the last round of shovel-ready stimulus programs, we can expect lots of talk; and precious little money will actually be spent.