New York’s Subways and the Crisis of Government

Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors vowed to change the Earth’s climate:

Mayors from across the country…pledged Friday to take the lead in reducing the nation’s carbon footprint after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.

“There will still be leadership from the United States,” Brainard said in a call with reporters organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “It’s going to come from the mayors of the country.”
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“If you are a mayor and not addressing shifts in changing weather patterns or preparing for the impacts of climate change you aren’t doing your job,” [Pittsburgh Mayor William] Peduto, a Democrat, said in a statement.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio is on the control-the-climate bandwagon:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) promised Wednesday that his city would uphold the Paris climate agreement even if President Trump moves forward with his campaign promise to withdraw from the accord.

In a series of tweets, de Blasio ripped Trump’s reported decision to exit the deal as “horribly destructive” and called climate change “a dagger aimed straight at the heart of New York City.”

This is absurd. Best case, if all countries fulfilled all commitments under the Paris accord (which, of course, won’t happen) the impact on global temperatures–if you assume the IPCC’s model-based calculations are correct–would be insignificant and probably undetectable. The idea that America’s mayors can do anything about the Earth’s climate is ludicrous.

But then there is this:

For months, the city’s aging transportation infrastructure has served New Yorkers one fresh outrage after another.

Subway meltdowns have become all too frequent, with the number of delays skyrocketing as pieces of antiquated equipment fail regularly. Hundreds of straphangers were recently stranded on a steamy F train in Manhattan that left them struggling to pry open the doors to escape.

Until Tuesday, the main concern for riders had been long and unpredictable delays in a fraying system. But in a flash, the concern shifted from inconvenience to questions about basic safety as two cars on a train in Upper Manhattan veered off the tracks in a jumble of sparks and smoke.

At least 34 people were injured in the derailment, which occurred around 10 a.m., with 17 transported to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, according to Fire Department officials.

And this:

The New York City subway system, by far the largest and best public transit system in the United States, has reached a crisis level of dysfunction over the past few months, with serious congestion, delays, and a recent derailment in Harlem that injured 34 passengers. In a delayed response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) declared a “state of emergency” on Thursday and ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to produce a reorganization plan to fix the problem.

And this: “Every New York City Subway Line Is Getting Worse. Here’s Why.”

And this: “Some subways are literally held together with zip ties.”

And even this: “Snake hangs from pole for ride on New York subway.”

Many others–Glenn Reynolds, for one–have made the point: as the ambitions of our political class become ever more grandiose, its ability to effectively carry out the basic functions of government has withered. New York’s Mayor vows to cool down the surface of the Earth, something entirely outside his jurisdiction, but he cannot competently administer a subway system.

The same is true at the federal level. Our politicians want to create Heaven on Earth, extinguishing every scourge that has bedeviled humanity for millennia, from poverty to ill health and on and on. But can they balance a budget? No. Can they control the nation’s borders, one of the fundamental duties of any sovereign state? Apparently not.

When it comes to practical reality, our political class is incompetent.

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