Biden in the Land of Oz

Joel Kotkin spells it out in “Joe Biden’s Imaginary America“:

Joe Biden’s ballyhooed “infrastructure” plan, coupled with unprecedented stimulus spending, is cast by the obliging media as being about the middle class but seems oddly detached from how the overwhelming majority of the middle class lives, which is in lower-density, automobile-dependent neighborhoods. This dynamic was intensifying even before the pandemic. But Biden’s plan seems mostly about serving the relatively small sliver of transit-riding apartment dwellers living in denser neighborhoods. Overall, dense residential areas accommodate no more than 10 percent of the nation’s population….

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the Biden administration’s myopic sense of geography than its transportation priorities. Take urban transit. Biden has proposed a policy that, by some estimates, would allocate $165 billion for public transit (including urban rail — subways, light rail, and commuter rail) against only $115 billion to fix and modernize roads and bridges. Transit, which accounts for about 1 percent of overall urban and rural ground transportation, would receive nearly 60 percent of the money….

Transit thrives in only a few municipalities (not entire metro areas) with extensive downtown-oriented urban rail systems such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington. These municipalities, with the nation’s largest downtowns, accommodate nearly 60 percent of transit work-trip destinations but only about 6 percent of the country’s jobs. New York City by itself accounts for 36 percent.

Attempts to boost transit’s share of urban travel have been plagued by a basic problem: In the nation’s major metropolitan areas (those with a population over 1 million), cars can reach almost 55 times as many potential jobs as transit in less than 30 minutes, according to University of Minnesota research. In the New York metro, with by far the largest transit system in the nation, cars can reach six times as many jobs as transit. But demand for both forms of commuting may be lower now, as the pandemic has seen millions of people working at home grow used to a commute time of zero.

A principal purpose of federal subsidies to build urban rail systems was to lure drivers from their cars. But a review of 23 completed rail systems shows that no such thing occurred: Overall, where the new systems have opened, the percentage of commuters driving alone has increased….

The greatest absurdity is high-speed rail, which proponents such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say can replace planes for long-distance trips. But this has never happened — not in France, not in Spain, and not in China, which instead has emerged as the world’s aviation leader in passenger volume. President Biden also has imagined a world where people can go coast to coast as quickly by train as by plane. The fastest high-speed trains in the world average about 200 miles per hour — compared with the nearly 500-mph average speed of transcontinental flights.

The cost of building high-speed-rail systems in the highly regulated and litigious U.S. also would be prohibitive. World Bank research has estimated the costs of U.S. high-speed-rail construction to be a third more per mile than in Europe and nearly 150 percent higher than in China.

California, cited as the inspiration for many of Biden’s least practical ideas, should stand as a cautionary tale. The California High-Speed Rail Authority in 2008 estimated the cost of building the San Francisco–to–Los Angeles/Anaheim route to be $32.8 billion to $33.6 billion. In November of that year, voters approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for the system. But by 2012, costs had escalated to between $98.5 billion and $117.6 billion. Facing a political backlash over this inflation-adjusted tripling of costs, the authority adopted a revised proposal that would reduce the cost of the system by about $30 billion by not building high-speed infrastructure in parts of the Bay Area and Los Angeles. In these segments, high-speed trains would operate mixed with conventional commuter trains — a so-called blended system….

The Left’s embrace of forced density reveals a serious misreading of demographic and geographic trends. Despite what you might read in the New York Times, Americans on the whole never went “back to the city.” In fact, in not one year since 2000 have more people moved into the urban-core counties than moved into suburban and exurban counties. Between 2010 and 2020, some of the largest metro areas — including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, and San Francisco — lost domestic migrants, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. Critically, as new research shows, the people most likely to move are the educated young, previously thought to be permanently urbanistas.

Last year, as even a New York Times analysis indicates, most urban counties lost population as people moved to suburbs and smaller towns….

Harvard’s Michael Porter has identified the rise in U.S. oil and gas production as “perhaps the single largest opportunity to improve the trajectory of the U.S. economy.” But the impact of “decarbonization,” particularly a full ban on fracking as envisioned by Vice President Harris, for example, would cost more jobs than those lost in the Great Recession, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report. It’s often suggested that these lost jobs would be replaced by “green jobs.” But that is something of a fairy tale. An analysis of the hypothesized green positions by North America’s Building Trades Unions shows them to pay far less and last far less long than the positions they would replace. Or as Terry O’Sullivan, general presi­dent of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, summarized this situation for Politico: “It’s pie-in-the-sky bullsh** about these green jobs being good middle-class jobs, because they’re not.”…

Kotkin’s litany addresses only a small part of Biden’s lunatic “leadership”. In addition (to name only three things), there is his vastly expensive and completely wrong-headed “war” on “climate change”, his plan to tax the rich even more (so that they will invest even less in job-creating economic growth), and his feckless and probably suicidal foreign and defense policies (see yesterday’s post).

All in all, Biden’s performance reminds me of The Wizard of Oz.  Biden is playing the Scarecrow (no brain), the Cowardly Lion (no courage), and — rhetoric aside — the Tin Man (no heart), given his demonstrated willingness to sacrifice the livelihoods of American workers while promoting the interests of foreigners and coastal elites.