Funding transit jobs is a bogus benefit

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Jobs, jobs, jobs! Spending another $3 billion to maintain and expand metro Atlanta’s transit systems would create tons of them: designers, surveyors, and construction companies to clear the routes, lay the tracks, and build the stations. More jobs to operate and maintain rail cars, buses, signal equipment, and ticket machines. Banks to receive, disburse, and account for all those dollars. There’s just no end to the jobs!

That’d be a good thing, right?

No, not really. The jobs would be funded by money taken out of the very same economy, and their collective output (limited transit service) has very little real benefit except to those in them, a few riders, and businesses who can pay employees less (while taxpayers make up the difference in compensation needed for them to get to work).

Forty years of lackluster performance and annual half-billion-dollar operating losses clearly demonstrate how metro Atlanta transit provides much less benefit than the mountain of resources required to produce it. Transit jobs are more “make-work” than actual benefit to those subsidizing them (rider fares have covered only about 20 percent of MARTA’s operating costs). Yet, proponents want to create even more resource-devouring transit and attendant jobs.

Proponents are confusing means and ends, processes from outcomes. They insist on taxing all metro residents to pay a small group who provide a service of little economic value that most of us wouldn’t pay for voluntarily; then they claim success for creating jobs that deliver that service.

Hiring those same new transit men and women to shovel a 30-foot-wide, 10-foot ditch around Atlanta over five years, then spending the next five years filling it in, follows the same logic: using government taxation to take resources from taxpayers at large, then re-distributing them to a small group without a reciprocal benefit to the taxed.

Extracting the rightful fruit of another’s labor without reciprocal benefit is servitude or slavery, but now it’s billed as “social and economic justice.”

The old Soviet Union prided itself on 100 percent employment. Yep, everyone had a job, but thousands did nothing more socially or economically useful than operate an elevator or sit under museum paintings (ostensibly as guards).

Two U.S. states still follow their example at the gasoline pumps to create make-work jobs: Oregon and New Jersey prohibit drivers from fueling their own cars. Are mandatory plug jockeys for electric cars far behind?

None of these activities are the basis of the vibrant, productive, and lasting economy we strive for. Especially in the aggregate, we have to produce at least as much value as we cost, or there’s no one left to pay us.

Robert Ross

Peachtree City, Ga.