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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 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.

http://www.truthandpolitics.org/military-relative-...
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/mil_exp_per_of_g...

quote:
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."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal...
http://www.truthandpolitics.org/comp-fed-outlays.p...

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 truthandpolitics.org 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:

http://www.truthandpolitics.org/military-relative-...

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.


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