June 5, 2012
My train broke down this morning at the Secaucus Junction station. As I sat, I started to reflect on crumbling infrastructure – and my train with no power. My first thought was about this newly built station with an estimated construction cost of $600 million in 2005. What a great idea; it is a junction for 2 rail lines, yet had no parking! And, then I remembered that there were no access roads either. But, for an estimated $250 million, the New Jersey Turnpike built Exit 15X to get to the rail station.
Recent estimates are that 18,826 commuters use the Secaucus junction daily. If you the divide the cost of $850 million (and it’s probably understated), the cost per commuter is $45,150. Now, that’s value!
Being a good commuter, I returned to my reading material as I awaited a “rescue train” to take me and my fellow commuters to my destination – New York’s famed Penn Station.
When I got on the crowded rescue train with my fellow commuters, I opened up my current edition of Bloomberg Businessweek. Interestingly, the first article that caught my attention was A Massive Program on the Verge of Collapse.
As I started to read the article, it was not about the crumbling infrastructure, but the crumbling financial system. “For years, members of Congress have dithered over how to shore up the rapidly dwindling coffers of Social Security and Medicare. Yet chances are you haven’t heard any dire warnings about another massive entitlement program that will soon go insolvent if Congress doesn’t act. That’s because lawmakers have studiously avoided talking about it – and aren’t likely to this election year. The pot of money the Social Security Administration is using to cover disability insurance is projected to run dry in 2016.”
Oklahoma Senator Coburn was clear. “Nobody wants to touch things where they can be criticized.” However, he does want to overhaul the $132 Billion program.
Nine million disabled people and their families will have a problem, but Washington chooses to not talk about this. Let’s look at a short list of other issues that Washington seems to avoid talking about:
- 30 years later, we still have no energy policy.
- 30 years later, we still have no tax reform (even though the President formed an elite committee to make proposals for change that were ignored).
- During the last decade, and certainly the last 4 years, our leaders have not dealt with the issues of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- What about kicking the can down the road with debt and debt reduction? No progress on that front either.
Global economies are on the cliff right now, and can easily fall over. The U.S. is not immune either. We are still experiencing positive GDP growth, but that can change quickly.
The message is simple. Take heed from the proverb, “Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.” Take action on any one of the four points above, but the most important may be tax policy. A comprehensive, fair tax policy will encourage companies to spend money. Follow up with an effective energy policy and look at the immediate benefits.
Doing nothing (kicking the can) is not an option. We need bold action now! And better infrastructure as well!
If you were wondering, the cost of a one way ticket from Secaucus to New York is $4.00. Just think – only 212 million people need to make this stop to generate the cash to pay for the construction.
I think that this is why politicians are afraid to take bold action. Maybe the first step would be to take more public transportation.