A Stupid Move: Ending "New Starts" Would Deepen Oil Dependence and Hit Our Economy

As you may have read about, a band of Republican House Members have proposed a slew of cuts to programs. One of the proposed cuts is to the public transportation "New Starts" program which invests in rail transit lines in metropolitan areas such as Charlotte, Dallas and Salt Lake City.

This is a remarkable hat trick of stupidity.

First, there's the economic stupidity of it. Analysis shows that these investments generate about 96,000 jobs per year, both directly through construction and indirectly through the manufacturing supply chain (steel for rails, components for vehicles) and worker re-spending in the economy. And these investments are most helpful in metropolitan areas, which account for more than 85 percent of the nation's employment, income and production of goods and services (i.e., GDP). There's a solid return on this kind of infrastructure investment, both in the short-term with job creation and in the long run with more GDP thanks to better transportation for workers, goods and services.

Second, these investments help to make us more energy-independent. Public transportation already saves about 4.2 billion gallons of fuel per year, and more investment will increase those savings. Just as important, providing these mobility options makes us more resilient as a nation. How so? Consumers and workers can shift to transit options should oil prices spike, which as we all know is probably going to happen given that the market is influenced by a cartel with questionable motives (OPEC) and relies on reserves under the sands of a region that is notoriously unstable (just news.google "Egypt" to see what I mean). That helps insulate them from price volalility, and therefore the economy, more than if they had no mobility choices.

And last, this is stupid because the program has pretty strict requirements for projects to qualify, meaning there's little chance of it financing a boondoggle (google "bridge to nowhere" to see what I mean). It is also oversubscribed, so much so that competitors  offer higher matches to help make their case so the feds only end up spending about half of project costs as opposed to 80 percent as with highways.

In sum, New Starts benefits our economy, reduces our oil dependence, plus it's effective. I'm all for cutting government waste, but there's just no justification for taking a knife to this program.