March 24, 2008 10:38AM

Stupid Government Tricks

When I go to New York, I often ride the subways up and down Manhattan. Each ride costs $2. Usually I pay $10 for a MetroCard and get a $2 bonus, so you get six rides for the price of five. But on my most recent trip, to give a speech at the Manhattan Institute, I arrived at Penn Station and went to buy my $10 MetroCard--only to discover that the bonus is now $1.50 instead of $2. But what good is that? Now I get five rides for the price of five, and I have a card with $1.50 on it that won't get me another ride. When I mentioned this discovery to one of the numerate journalists on John Stossel's team at ABC News, he instantly pointed out that you have to buy four cards before you get your full bonus. After you buy four cards, you can get three bonus rides (instead of the four bonus rides on four cards under the old system). But meanwhile, you have to hold on to each card and trade it in for a new card, unlike the old system where you used the card up and discarded it.

It's not the price increase that bothered me. I realize that each subway ride is heavily subsidized (less so in New York than in other cities), so I can hardly object to a price increase. It's just the poke in the eye of promising me a bonus if I spend $10 at once, and then making that bonus extremely difficult to actually realize. And to think that some people want to turn our medical care over to such a system.