Solyndra and the Transcontinental Railroad

President Obama says government will have to build the nation out of the economic trough.

"We’re the country that built the intercontinental railroad," Obama says. "So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads?"

Ironic that he mentions the Chinese. Progressives used to complain that to build the railroad, bosses abused Chinese workers — called them "coolies" and treated them badly. Now this is big success?

I guess Obama doesn’t know that the Transcontinental Railroad was a Solyndra-like Big Government scandal. The railroad didn’t make economic sense at the time, so the government subsidized construction and gave the companies huge quantities of the best land on the continent.

As we should expect, without market discipline — profit and loss — contractors ripped off the taxpayers. After all, if you get paid by the amount of track you lay, you’ll lay more track than necessary.

Credit Mobilier, the first rail construction company, made enormous profits by overcharging for its work. To keep the subsidies flowing, it made big contributions to congressmen.

Where have we heard that recently?

The transcontinental railroad lost tons of money. The government never covered its costs, and most rail lines that used the tracks went bankrupt or continued to be subsidized by taxpayers.

The Union Pacific and Northern Pacific — all those rail lines we learned about in history class — milked the taxpayer and then went broke.

One line worked. The Great Northern never went bankrupt. It was the railroad that got no subsidies.

via Government is the biggest job killer | John Stossel | Columnists | Washington Examiner.

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