As most Antiplanner readers probably know, Congress last week decided to test whether the nation with the world’s dominant currency can borrow another trillion dollars or so without risking its economy. Before passage of the bill, the national debt was $21 trillion, and the bill will add at least $800 billion to that and probably more.
The good news is that the 2018 spending bill contains very few earmarks. The bad news is that it calls for so much spending that it didn’t really need any. For example, although it never names the Gateway project — Northeast Corridor improvements including new tunnels under the Hudson River which the Trump administration doesn’t want to fund — the bill includes more than $500 million that will probably go for that project.
Specifically, the bill spends $650 million on the Northeast Corridor, which is $292 million more than was authorized by previous Congressional law. Amtrak itself received $50 million more than was authorized. This includes $35.5 million to start service on new routes, such as New Orleans-Jacksonville, a route that stopped running when Hurricane Katrina hit much of its infrastructure. Continue reading