On the Road Again

Specifically, on the road to serfdom. A tweet via Tyler Cowen:

This is all "thanks" to last year's CHIPS Act ("Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act of 2022"). The Biden Administration was not content simply to shovel money into the maw of semiconductor manufacturers. It also guaranteed they would produce the really expensive semiconductors.

So we'll pay twice: once for the subsidies, then again when it's time to buy those subsidized products.

If you prefer text, the WSJ editorialists have that: The Chips Act Becomes Industrial Social Policy.

Government subsidies are never free, and now we are learning the price U.S. semiconductor firms and others will pay for signing on to President Biden’s industrial policy. They will become the indentured servants of progressive social policy.

Democrats last year snookered Republicans into passing their $280 billion Chips Act, which includes $39 billion in direct financial aid for chip makers and a 25% investment tax credit. Republicans hoped this would satisfy West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, but after Chips passed he quickly flipped and endorsed the Inflation Reduction Act.

Now the Administration is using the semiconductor subsidies to impose much of the social policy that was in the failed Build Back Better bill. On Tuesday Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo rolled out the new rules for chip makers and summed up the politics to the New York Times: “If Congress wasn’t going to do what they should have done, we’re going to do it in implementation” of the subsidies.

Yes, she actually said that. Next month: "Legislation? We don't need no stinking legislation!".

Briefly noted:

  • In our "Bad Ideas That Will Not Die" department, the Josiah Bartlett Center recounts the latest Boondoggle: State study shows soaring costs, plunging ridership for commuter rail.

    The January, 2023, draft of the state’s Capital Corridor commuter rail study contains nothing that commuter rail boosters should like. The financial analysis, prepared for the state Department of Transportation by AECOM Technical Services Inc. of Manchester, envisions a nearly $800 million railroad serving fewer than 100 Manchester commuters per trip, at an operating cost of $17 million per year. This represents a dramatic increase in costs and a devastating collapse in ridership since the DOT released its first Capital Corridor study in 2014.

    The report’s own dismal numbers show that Manchester-Boston commuter rail would squander hundreds of millions of dollars to serve only a few hundred riders per day, making it a colossal boondoggle.

    Michael Graham piles on at NH Journal: $800M for a Manchester Choo Choo? That's Just the Taxpayers' Down Payment. As the JBC noted, the current cost estimate is nearly $800 million. But:

    Except, it won’t cost $800 million. It will cost far more. How do we know? Because large transportation projects always cost more. Boston’s Big Dig started with a price tag of $3 billion. It has cost more than $23 billion (and counting), and it was so poorly constructed it killed someone the first year it was fully open.

    California’s super-sexy high-speed rail project was supposed to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles at speeds of 200 mph for just $33 billion. Now it’s a $113 billion-plus boondoggle that sends trains at a traditional speed between two mid-sized cities.

    Is New Hampshire somehow different? As the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy noted, the New Hampshire DOT’s construction cost estimate has jumped 250 percent since the 2014 study. With Biden administration rules mandating (above market) union wages and (more expensive) U.S. manufactured construction supplies, does anyone seriously expect this number to go anywhere but up?

    And for what? To get a few hundred commuters from Manchester to Boston in an hour and a half–each way? How many Granite Staters want a three-hour round trip to Boston’s South Station? What do they do once they get there? Catch the T or pay for an Uber? Speaking of which — how did they get to the new taxpayer-funded $51 million Manchester train station in the first place?

    Ackshually, the proposal is to get the commuters to North Station, not South Station. Arguably an even less convenient terminus.

  • At the Free Press, John Tierney reveals The Real Science on Masks: They Make No Difference.

    We now have the most authoritative estimate of the value provided by wearing masks during the pandemic: approximately zero. The most rigorous and extensive review of the scientific literature concludes that neither surgical masks nor N95 masks have been shown to make a difference in reducing the spread of Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

    This verdict ought to be the death knell for mask mandates, but that would require the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the rest of the public health establishment to forsake “the science”—and unfortunately, these leaders and their acolytes in the media seem as determined as ever to ignore actual science.

    If you walk into one of the places that require masking (there are still some around here) you might hand them a printed copy of Tierney's article. Or read it aloud to them.

  • Jonathan Turley is more than a little steamed: COVID lab leak is a scandal of media and government censorship.

    For years, the media and government allied to treat anyone raising a lab theory as one of three possibilities: conspiracy theorist or racist or racist conspiracy theorist.

    No apologies have been given.

  • On that same topic, Rich Lowry: Anatomy of a Taboo.

    Undergirding much of the coverage was a belief that misinformation, unless rigorously policed, could do terrible things . . . like get Donald Trump elected. Chris Cillizza accused Senator Tom Cotton of “playing a dangerous game with his coronavirus speculation,” noting that we are supposedly living in “a post-truth world” pushed by Donald Trump.

    A New York Times story referred to the term “infodemic,” reportedly used by World Health Organization workers to denote the dangers of misinformation.

    In this context, journalists clearly felt motivated to clamp down on anything that hadn’t received the official imprimatur as duly vetted and approved “information.” With this mindset, reporters were primed to dismiss dissidents and doubters and tilt toward declaring an unsettled question settled.

    And of course, one of the bedrock principles: "If Trump Believes It Might Be True, It Must Be False".