No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

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Different Movie, Same Ending

by @ 8:37 on October 27, 2009. Filed under Health Care Reform, Politics - Minnesota.

Sometimes it’s tough for Mrs. Shoe to watch movies or especially, TV shows with me.  You see, I’m very much a believer in the formulaic approach to watching media.  In my world, 95% of most TV and movies follow the same, generally predictable plot lines.  In my world, all of the “whodunits” boil down to; someone dies, the investigator has some “ah ha” moment which results in someone being caught for the murder. 

One big advantage to watching media believing they are formulaic is that it allows me to “experience” an hour of television while only actually watching 5 or 6 minutes of the show.  In my world, I can’t always tell you who the killer will be but I can tell you that the show will end with a killer being caught.

The reason I tell you about my media watching experience is that it is much like my experience with government; government is very formulaic.  First, government tells us that a program is good for us in some way.  Then, government tells us that the program will cost only a minimal amount.  The ending of every government program results in the program not accomplishing it’s goals and costing multiple times its anticipated costs along the way.

A new study is out on Amtrak.  The study says that Amtrak’s required subsidy was $32 per passenger.  While that doesn’t sound bad on the surface, Amtrak’s analyzed study was 4 timeswhat the pseudo government agency said that its subsidies were.

If you think that the discrepancy may be just two groups of bureaucrats fighting over arcane kinds of analysis, nope:

Subsidyscope says its review counted certain capital expenses that Amtrak doesn’t consider when calculating the financial performance of its routes, namely wear and tear on equipment, or depreciation.

Wow, what a concept!  Taking depreciation into account with a capital intensive business like railroads!  Not including depreciation in the costs of a railroad would be like looking at your household budget needs without considering what it costs you to live in your house! 

The apologists for Amtrak were quick to justify Amtrak in light of the new study:

“Let’s not hold rail up and say it needs to make money when highways don’t make money, transit doesn’t make money and a lot of small airports don’t make money and they all get subsidies,” Van Beek said.

This is the same canard brought to you by folks who are into light rail and other forms of transit funding and it’s wrong.  None of these areas need to “make money.”  It’s usually coupled with “but my pet program doesn’t lose as much money as this other government program so my pet program deserves funding.”  This is the same mentality that has bureaucrats screaming that their budgets are “being cut” when in fact, the “cut” is cutting back from an automatic increase in their budget, an increase that is rarely justified.

Admittedly, in the scheme of things, Amtrak’s annual subsidy of $2.6 billion is small.  My point is that even with this relatively small subsidy the government can’t really figure out what the true costs are.  This, with a service that has a long history to analyze and draw conclusions from.

Placebo care continues to wind through Congress.  No one knows what it will eventually become but we all know it will be some freakish parody of what Nancy Pelosi claims it is.  In fact, I think the new name for Placebo care should become Frankenstein care.  Back to topic…Depending upon who’s telling you, Frankenstein Care will cost anywhere from $900 billion to $1.5 billion but remember our experience with Amtrak and the formulaic approach to government.  The chances of Frankenstein Care’s actual cost coming in under $1.5 billion are equal to those of President Obama supporting a right to life amendment in the Constitution; neither will happen!

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