Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I see I have been away from here for a while. Maybe things can calm down enough for me to collect my thoughts and continue my ruminations and rantings. At least for a time.

Today, let's look at transportation. Airlines and highways both get heavy taxpayer subsidies. For some reason, though, politicians expect rail transportation to pay its own way. No form of transportation pays its own way anywhere in the world. Except for walking, of course.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, what kind of country do we want? Do we want clogged highways causing clogged skies? Do we want deteriorating railroads and congested airports?

Or do we want a sane choice in how we transport ourselves? If there were some form of mass transit available to take me to work, I would patronize it every day possible. But there is not.

I propose we look at what our various transportation systems do best, the advantages of each form. On a basic level, automobile traffic allows the most freedom and flexibility to go where we want when we want. The cost of this is traffic congestion, pollution, and vast tracts of American soil paved over to accomodate this. Bus routes take people along designated routes within a city or between them for a reasonable cost. This is far from the most pleasant way to travel, but it takes less space on the roads and streets than automobile traffic does. Air travel is best for covering vast distances quickly, for people who don't have time to drive or take a train or a bus.
Rail travel is best for people who have a good distance to go and have the time to relax and enjoy it, but need to travel faster than a bus could take them. Trains also do the best job of moving freight between major distribution points where trucks can take it the rest of the way. Air freight is prohibitively expensive for all but the most urgent parcels.

So, a sane transportation policy needs to be comprehensive and balanced. We build and maintain roads and streets for automobile traffic, but we should also build and maintain sidewalks for foot traffic. Building pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods is a topic for a different post. We subsidise airlines because a large number of people choose that means of transportation. We build and maintain airports for them, and no one says we should not. We also need to build and maintain railroad tracks and terminals and subsidise rail carriers, so people will have an alternative to air traffic and the skies, as well as the highways, can become less congested.

What say we all?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Social Security

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Social Security System, as it is, is sound through 2052. Beyond that, it will be able to pay at least 70% of promised benefits, which will be a higher level, even adjusted for inflation, than recipients get today.

Can I say the same about my employer's stock? Hah! My employer just merged with my former employer, whose stock I wouldn't buy because I didn't trust the stability of the company. Sure enough, they went bankrupt, albeit 20 years later.

So is there a corporate stock out there that we can be sure will still be sound and growing at mid-century? None that I know of. Maybe a nice index fund....

Anyway, the Social Security System needs only a little tweaking to keep it going the way it is: the most successful government program in history. All we need is for the rich to pay the same proportion of their income as the poor pay, and it will be sound for the rest of the century. End of argument.