Friday, April 22, 2005

Who really believes it's "free"?

Westchester County (where I live) has had a "Bee Line" bus strike for the last long while. It's now been resolved, and the Westchester County government wants to make it up to everybody:
To compensate riders for the financial hardship and inconvenience they faced during the long strike of the Bee-Line buses, all rides will be free until May 31, County Executive Andy Spano and Legislators Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jose Alvarado announced today.

In addition, March "Passports" will be valid until June 30. Rides will also be free on the county's ParaTransit service for the disabled and elderly through May 31.

"I know how much the riding public has suffered," Spano said. "The waiving of fares is an important step in easing the financial burden so many of them faced and in rebuilding our ridership. And I hope that it encourages people who never tried the buses before to give them a try."

Buses are expected to be on the road Saturday. The free fares will apply to ALL routes, not just those operated by Liberty Lines, which had been the target of the strike. In accordance with federal laws, this includes the ParaTransit system for the disabled and elderly.
My goodness, isn't Westchester's government generous, wanting to "compensate" everybody? Of course, it's perfectly easy for government to do so -- it's backed by the "full faith and credit" of the taxpayer's wallet.

Really, who honestly believes the fares will be "free"? From where do they think Westchester County will get the money to provide six weeks of "free" bus service? I'll tell you where: the same source by which the federal government will redeem the Treasuries in the Social Security trust fund. Any person who really understands either issue realizes that, hey, we the taxpayer ultimately foot the bill. But liberals like Krugman, DeLong, Dean Baker, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Rational Action don't like to admit that. (That reminds me, I haven't checked RA's blog to see if he ever replied to my latest rebuttal.) These devout state-worshippers blabber about the "full faith and credit" of the U.S. government, acting like there's a Santa Claus to give government the money. Then again, that's how big government perceives taxpayers. Forget the credit card analogy: we're year-round Santa Clauses, even when government is so (typically) very, very bad.

Westchester County's leaders are now pulling the same trick, trying to elicit thanks and cheers for the six weeks of "free" buses. They'll never admit that only a small subset of the population ever ride the Bee-Line, while the cost is distributed among everybody -- including many of us who don't ride the bus because we live and work nowhere near the routes. Yet we'll still pay like everybody else. Westchester County's government is even trying to lure new people to the service with the six weeks of "free" rides. By definition that increases the operating costs, so more tax dollars are required. Isn't that a great deal?

A subsidy by any other name still reeks with the same stink.

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