Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Money Well Spent

Long time readers know that I don't really "do" political here very often, mostly because I like writing about other stuff, and there are a ton of people who do the political thing much better than I do. But I just read the text of Governor Jindal's response to President Obama's speech, and a few things stood out, both from this paragraph:
But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history - with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.
First, high speed rail is actually a really good idea. About five years ago, I worked on a project around Des Moines, and drove back and forth once a week for five straight weeks. I did that because flying was kind of a pain. Driving took five hours, door to door. Flying took nearly as long, and I only live a half hour from O'Hare. But I had to leave about two hours before my flight, the flight was around an hour, and it took a half hour to get to the hotel, which was near the city center. A high speed rail line going from Chicago to Des Moines would have actually gotten me there quicker, all things considered, and been a heck of a lot cheaper. I'll freely admit that the car provided other advantages, like being on my own schedule, not needing to rent in Des Moines, and being able to stop in Cedar Rapids to catch the Kernels. But a network that linked Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis, Springfield, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, and parts east would be really useful. And I'm not sure why they demagogue Vegas to LA. Maybe the Republicans in congress don't know this, but there are a lot of people in LA. I mean a whole lot. And a lot of them like to go to Vegas. There's a very large segment of the population that a line between those two cities would serve.  

Second, seeing as how governments need cars for all sorts of reasons, and seeing as how most government units tend to buy their cars in fleets from American auto companies, companies who are in a bit of trouble if you haven't heard, that actually seems like a good thing to spend money on. 

Finally, Volcano monitoring? Are they serious? The western United States kinda has a lot of Volcanoes. There's a whole range of them called the Cascades. One of them is pretty close to Seattle, a metro area of about 3.25 million people. Another has been in the news a lot lately, near Anchorage, a metro area of about 275,000 people. That's about three and a half million people potentially in the path of Volcanoes.  This is the result of some quick googling via wikipedia:
Mount Rainier is an ACTIVE[7] stratovolcano
 According to Geoff Clayton, a geologist with RH2, a repeat of the Osceola mudflow would destroy EnumclawKentAuburn, and most or all of Renton.[13] Such a mudflow might also reach down the Duwamish estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattle, and cause tsunamis in Puget Sound and Lake Washington. According to USGS, about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier.[7] Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows as well as lava.
That seems like kind of a big deal.  A quick back of the envelope calculation tells me that's well over 800 times the number of soldiers we've lost in Iraq, and over 1,000 times the number of people we lost on 9/11. The stimulus bill contains $140 million dollars to monitor and study those volcanoes. Considering we've spent about $600 billion on "Iraq monitoring" a country that hadn't killed any Americans before we invaded, $140 million seems like a small price to pay to monitor volcanoes that potentially threaten 3.5 million people. Honestly, if those are the three most "pork laden" proposals they could find in the bill, it's probably a bill that doesn't contain much pork. 

And what's with the "something called Volcano monitoring" crap? Umm, yeah, that's what it's called. Do these guys go around talking about "something called neurosurgery" or "something called the auto industry". I mean, it's not like it's some sort of Orwellian doublespeak for a project they're trying to keep secret. It's "something called" volcano monitoring because it consists of monitoring volcanoes. It's not to hard to understand.

I can only conclude that Republicans are either really, really stupid, or they think you are really, really stupid.

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