- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2011


President Obama either doesn’t realize a debt crisis is looming, or he just doesn’t care. Yesterday, he dispatched his transportation chief, Ray LaHood, to herald the expenditure of another $2 billion on “high-speed” rail. This reckless profligacy has the country on a one-way track to the poorhouse.

On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal budget deficit is up 9 percent for the year. Despite impressive rhetoric about “tough choices” and “deep cuts,” the administration has, so far, spent $181 billion more - not less - this year than it did last year. The government is spending more now than it ever has. There’s no better example of the runaway nature of the problem than Mr. Obama’s intention to blow $53 billion on a trip down memory lane with a form of transportation that became obsolete a century ago.

Cabinet officials insist the public is clamoring for choo-choos. “This is what Americans want,” Mr. LaHood claimed. “With high gasoline prices, Americans are looking for alternative forms of transportation. … We have to create alternatives.” As evidence of the demand, Mr. LaHood said he received more than $10 billion in requests from cities and states looking to get their hands on a big slice of the $2 billion in federal largesse.

So the demand isn’t actually from the public; it’s coming from politicians. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, for example, put out a pair of press releases Monday triumphantly announcing the millions headed to his state. With Mr. LaHood standing behind him, the New York Democrat also insisted that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) boost its involvement in train security with a “no ride” list that would, in theory, keep terrorists off the tracks. Although this idea was presented as a response to evidence of a potential locomotive plot found on Osama bin Laden’s captured computer, TSA has long been looking to expand its role.

A February incident at a Savannah, Ga., Amtrak station gives insight into how an expanded TSA would work. Blue-gloved security agents set up a checkpoint in which - as documented in a YouTube video - a 9-year-old boy was wanded and groped as he was trying to leave the station. Such schemes won’t make anyone safer. Nor does it make sense to create transportation “alternatives” that encourage Americans to abandon their automobiles so they can be packed into the confined space of a vulnerable train or trolley.

Spiking the president’s railroad boondoggle is the right thing to do not just for the country’s fiscal health, but for homeland security as well.

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