One evening on the train back from Richmond, I had the misfortune to sit by a man who wanted high speed rail travel in the US-or perhaps it was his misfortune to sit by me. “You want to tax ME to pay for WHAT?” I said. “But Europe has it,” he kept repeating.

Okay, to be fair, I didn’t have to ask him if he had found his trip as annoying as that of the Donner party, which would certainly have benefited by faster modes of travel. But in most cases, we just don’t need it.

Public policy consultant Wendell Cox notes on National Review Online:

If the nation is going to reduce its out-of-control spending, the first step is to stop spending money on things we do not need. Despite President Obama’s call in his State of the Union speech for linking 80 percent of the nation by high-speed rail, it is hard to imagine a more unnecessary program.

For example, people who travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco – along the route planned for one of the nation’s first high-speed-rail projects – already have choices. They can fly, drive, take the bus, or travel by train. True, some would prefer to tax their fellow citizens so that they can have another choice, high-speed rail. But indulging this desire would be as legitimate as funding government grocery stores for people who prefer not to shop at their local grocery chains.

Please, Mr. Cox, don’t give them any ideas!

That the president is even thinking about high speed rail at a time of financial crisis is disturbing.

As I have previously noted, Janet Daley, the American-born columnist for the U.K. Telegraph has done a good idea of summing up our spending dilemma: spend more or spend less. The high-speed rail people want to spend more.

Never mind that, as every hapless credit card addict discovers, once you are bankrupt and in debt over your head, every additional pound that you spend has to be borrowed which thus increases your debt, making it more unlikely that you will ever be solvent again. That simple logic of personal finance is not supposed to apply to governments: the Keynesian solution to recession is precisely for the state to spend more money in order to stimulate economic activity. And the growth that results from this injection of public funding is supposed to produce more tax revenues which will in turn allow governments to pay off their debts.