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China unveiled the world's fastest train (in average speed) last week.  (Source: Xinhua)

China plans to spend $1T USD to blanket its country with 16,000 miles of high speed rail, forming a unique state of the art transportation network. U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged a mere 2 percent of that sum ($13B USD) to our nation's own high speed rail efforts.  (Source: The Transport Politic)
China's $1T USD high speed rail gambit leaps ahead

High speed rail is right up there with electric vehicles when it comes to promising green solutions to transportation in the new millennium.  High speed rail uses electricity and mass-transit to drastically cut emissions when compared to automobile travel.  And it's expected to be far faster and more cost effective transportation method, albeit with some big up front costs for infrastructure.  Much as the original coal-burning locomotive and oil-burning automobile revolutionized transportation in the 19th and 20th centuries, the electric locomotive looks to transform society in the 21st century.

The U.S. under President Barack Obama has committed $13B USD in high speed rail investment.  That seems somewhat impressive until one hears about China's high speed rail commitment.  China
has already spent $259B USD on high speed rail and plans on spending a total of $1T USD by 2020 to install 16,000 miles of high speed rail track -- or roughly 1/3 of the length of the U.S.'s total interstate highway system.  

China put the exclamation point on its efforts last week with the unveiling of its flagship high speed rail model, the 380A train.  With a 236 miles per hour top cruising speed, the train is the world's fastest.

A handful of maglev trains can beat the 380A in top speed, but they are unable to sustain a faster average speed.  The "380" part of its name comes from its 236 mph cruising speed which translates into 380 kilometers per hour.  The train will offer a 4 hour ride between Shanghai and Beijing.  That cuts the trip time to less than a third of the driving time (12 to 13 hours).

A Chinese firm, Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., makes the impressive vehicles.  The first production model, the "He Xie", was unveiled last week at a ceremony in Changchun, the capital of the northeastern province of Jilin in China.  At the ceremony, the Chinese government pledged to purchase 100 of the speedy trains.

High speed rail will provide the Chinese economy with a unique advantage as it continues to grow and expand.  Business travelers will be able to make trips much faster and regain literally weeks in productivity each year.  And carbon emissions, long a sore spot for China, will be cut in a way that's
actually beneficial for the economy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. sees its own plans for high speed rail stalled as it ponders potentially less effective solutions for carbon control like "carbon-credits".  The 380A and China's high speed rail ambitions have led some to question if the U.S. will be left behind as the rest of the world embraces high speed rail.

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RE: Left in the Dust
By FishTankX on 6/7/2010 9:27:16 AM , Rating: 1
This is an old, old hat argument. We spend no more than 6% of our GDP on the military. It's roughly 0.8T. It's roughly equivalent to either health care or pension, and not even double welfare.

This isn't counting any of the revenue made from selling defense tech to other nations, either.

That being said, if we rerouted half of the military funds towards education, I think we'd be in much, much better shape. And might eventually get the money back through increased economic productivity, and by extension, tax revenue, which could be put back into the military if need be at a future date.

RE: Left in the Dust
By quiksilvr on 6/7/2010 10:16:54 AM , Rating: 2
Notice I said spent. I was simply stating how we got to where we are now.

RE: Left in the Dust
By gamerk2 on 6/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: Left in the Dust
By sebmel on 6/7/2010 7:17:05 PM , Rating: 5
As for the comment about sending US tech to China: this isn't US tech.

Most of the development has been done in the UK, Germany, Japan and now in China.

RE: Left in the Dust
By Redwin on 6/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: Left in the Dust
By Solandri on 6/7/2010 3:55:54 PM , Rating: 5
Where the heck are you folks getting your numbers? The U.S. spends a little over 4% of its GDP on the military, vs. a world average of about 2.5%-3.0% (the range I've seen it fluctuate since I've been watching it for the last 15 years). We hit a low of 3.04% during Clinton's term, which was only slightly above the world average at the time (2.9% if I remember right).

If you bear in mind that we are contractually bound by our peace treaty with Japan to provide for their defense, as well as the presence we maintain in Europe as a member of NATO (though I would agree that its reason for existing anymore is questionable), I'm not surprised we spend a bit more than the world average. You'll also find that we spend a lot more per soldier than any other country - we would rather spend a lot more money to keep our soldiers safe, than to suffer large casualties in a conflict.

The last time we spent 6% was in the '80s, during the Reagan years and the Cold War.

We spend 60% of every dollar the government takes in on the military

Military spending is about 50%-60% of discretionary spending. That's another stat that gets tossed around by people who are usually pro-social programs and anti-military. They obfuscate the distinction between discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary just means it needs to be approved again every year, while mandatory spending has gotten a multi-year or perpetual approval. Ignoring one of the two is failing to look at the entirety of the budget.

For FY2009, military spending is about 23% of the total budget. Social security about 20%, Medicare/Medicaid about 19%, and other mandatory spending (mostly social programs) is about 17%. (Note that Social security used to be the biggest single item, but its cost has been going down as the government has started to address its costs ballooning.) Historically, the percentage of the budget becoming mandatory spending has been increasing because the cost of social programs has been ballooning.

This accounting trick of looking only at discretionary spending also allows politicians to make sound bytes about their budget cutting prowess, where take credit for decreasing discretionary spending, while claiming no responsibility for mandatory spending increasing because "it's mandatory, I can't do anything about it."

Bottom line is, U.S. military spending is close to the lowest it's been since World War 2 ended. Could it go lower? Sure. But so could a lot of the social programs. Their spending has been going up far in excess of the money saved by military spending going down. If projections for Medicare/Medicaid are right, the increase in its costs in 20-30 years it will have consumed all the money you could save by eliminating military spending entirely.

RE: Left in the Dust
By Solandri on 6/7/2010 5:24:26 PM , Rating: 2
The board somehow combined my first two links so the link that says actually directs to the wikipedia entry. Here's the correct link to the graph of U.S. military expenditure as a % of GDP since 1940:

You can see it hit 3.0% during Clinton's last year. After 2001, it began ramping up to cover costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to 4.3% in 2009.

RE: Left in the Dust
By raf11 on 6/7/2010 7:18:49 PM , Rating: 2
I have yet to research the links you posted, but it is more than refreshing to see a post in a discussion of this type that actually revolves around the underlying facts, and not partisan/ideological mud slinging. All while remaining respectful. Well done.

RE: Left in the Dust
By hashish2020 on 6/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: Left in the Dust
By monkeyman1140 on 6/7/2010 11:58:21 PM , Rating: 3
Here we go again with the "world is defenseless without us" argument.

Japan has quite a considerable military, and lets not forget its JAPAN. They're not the peaceniks you think they are. If they get attacked it will be the Rape of Nankang II: The Return.

We simply have forgotten what its like to not fight a cold war, so we are terrified to reduce our military presence worldwide, even thought nobody else has bases everywhere.

RE: Left in the Dust
By Chaser on 6/7/2010 10:34:55 AM , Rating: 2
The military budget doesn't come close to the amount of money that is paid into education if you add the total spent by local, state, and federal governments. The United States does not have a money issue with education. Its a people issue. Student, parents etc.

First step towards education and budget reform: eliminate the Federal Dept of Education and route all that money to the states. Its absolutely ridiculous to take money from Joe in Fl. send it to a federal department of education and then back to another city in Florida. Too many hands. Too many wasteful federal positions that are nothing more than do gooder, photo op, staffs and salaries. Good grief.

After that eliminate the Dept of Energy. And the Dept of Agiculture.

RE: Left in the Dust
By juserbogus on 6/7/2010 2:14:10 PM , Rating: 2
you are so wrong.
do you have any links that support your statement?

RE: Left in the Dust
By knutjb on 6/9/2010 4:47:06 PM , Rating: 2

I have looked up his data and its from the government. Simply spending on education has more than doubled without improvement.

We here educators whining about no money and teachers will go if you don't give us more money. Sounds like a threat to me from the unions give us them or your kids will be stupid, well teachers haven't helped and the scores show it.

You never hear talk of reducing a few administrators that equals anywhere from 3 to 8 teachers (depending on location) when you consider all costs involved with that administrator. And don't even question a teachers ability or dare think about testing them annually to make sure they maintain their ability to teach.

You might want to rethink since you are so wrong...

RE: Left in the Dust
By StraightCashHomey on 6/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: Left in the Dust
By Romion on 6/8/2010 8:40:35 AM , Rating: 3
And how do u know what percent of GDP go to military?
U know this because they said so?
Im not even an american citizen :))))

RE: Left in the Dust
By lagitup on 6/12/2010 7:15:38 PM , Rating: 2
That being said, if we rerouted half of the military funds towards education, I think we'd be in much, much better shape

I agree, Time ran an article about a study that showed paying students dollars for grades, behavior, and attendance was equivalent to adding 2 months on to the school year in terms of standardized test scores.

And might eventually get the money back through increased economic productivity

That's the problem though. We're not educating cogs of the economy, we're educating people for life. This cogs philosophy which an unfortunate number of people seem to have would make Marx and the like roll in their graves...

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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