Europe and Japan are broke, so I don't see any reason to use their model for this high speed rail business. Inventions and progress comes from inventors and the productive effort of the people, not bureaucrats and politicians. I'm all for tax credits for inventing something the government sees as good or necessary, but I couldn't support wealth redistribution because someone in the government decides unilaterally that "this high speed rail is good. We shall tax our citizens money to make it."
And I think the idea of a job guarantee will have the opposite effect you're suggesting it will have. If everyone is guaranteed work no matter what, then there is no incentive for anyone to improve or better themselves. It would lead to people being forced into a professions they make not like, but because the government has them take a test, they are in that profession from 22-retirement. I can see that going very badly, and it draws some pretty horrible parallels with Communism, among other things. Next thing you know we'll all be wearing matching gray uniforms and sleeping in bunk houses. I think it would literally destroy our society. No joke.
Social safety nets create a moral hazard, and the ultimate impact they have is that certain people will purposefully underperform in order to qualify for benefits. We already have a lot of that in our society. It breeds crime, resentment, and poverty cycles itself from generation to generation, rather than only occuring once and being over and done with.
I'm not against taxes or excises, per se. I am opposed to an income tax, however. Because the income tax implies that it is the government that earns our money, and they simply allow us to keep a certain percentage. That to me is immoral. We work for a living, it's our money. I think taxes should be relegated to only products or services that we use, as we go, rather than scraping off the top everything society brings in. Taxes for gas or tolls on roads is totally fine. Because, if you use gas or drive on a road, you should pay for your use of it. Same with the Post office.
Japan does have the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the first world at 208%. But guess what, it doesn't matter. They're showing no signs of default, and they've been dealing with deflation more than inflation over the past several years. Japan is the perfect example of why total public debt is a non-issue for a nation that prints its own currency. The primary thing that matters is how much total currency effects inflation/deflation.
When it comes to our own spending, we technically don't even have to issue debt to spend more than we take in in tax, and $1.6 trillion (42%) of the government's debt is owed to itself.
"Going broke" is not something we have to worry about.
As for high speed rail, it's not the government deciding unilaterally that we should have high speed rail. It's American citizens democratically voting for politicians that wish to pursue high speed rail. I'm choosing for the government to build high speed rail projects with my vote. If you don't want that, you are well within your rights to vote differently, but put the blame where it truly lies. Of course, the issue right now is that high speed rail is practically dead in the U.S., save for California.
And a job guarantee isn't forced onto citizens. It's simply guaranteeing that those who wish to work are given a means to do so. It's usually accompanied by infrastructure projects that would put these people to work doing things like building bridges, filling potholes, or improving schools. These infrastructure improvements have long term benefits on our economy, and the added buying power of more people with jobs provides an immediate influx of cash into the economy through consumer purchases. It's win/win. Think of it like the military, only focused on local, civil projects and without 4 year contracts. We're not drafted into it, and people aren't "forced into professions they do not like". If you're interested, I'd recommend reading this article discussing job guarantee-ish programs used throughout the world, or this article discussing a general outline of a propsed job guarantee program here in the U.S.
And it doesn't disincentivize people from improving themselves. People aren't just content making minimum wage or close to it, and the opportunity to make more money is always encouraging people to move beyond their means. Though people like myself are usually more driven by a love of knowledge and a want for general self-improvement than monetary concerns.
Lastly, while I agree we have to deal with the issue of people being disincentivized from taking low paying jobs given such a job will earn them little more than they make on welfare (aka the "welfare trap"), gutting the safety net is not the solution, and I think that those who feel that is a solution have never known somebody who truly had to rely on the safety net.
One of my best friends went from being in a lower-middle class home to dropping well below the poverty line due to his mother's sudden illness and subsequent job loss. They're surviving on her disability checks and his job at the local AAA baseball field and some free lance photography. As it is, he's stressed out, can barely make ends meet, and is at a loss as to how to move up in the world. I can't begin to imagine how they'd fare without government assistance.