Against California High Speed Rail by Mark R. Powell

Imagining a World With California High Speed Rail

$9 Billion for 180 Miles of High Speed Rail Connecting Merced to Bakersfield
California’s High Speed Rail Authority led by its Chairman, Curt Pringle, hopes to squander $9 Billion on high speed rail stretching from a few miles north of Merced to downtown Bakersfield. Imagine how this feat could be accomplished:
(1) The near bankrupt Federal Government allocates to California all funds [$2.43 Billion] being returned by Florida’s HSR Authority [Note 1];
(2) The California High Speed Rail Authority and State Legislature choose to burden Californians with an additional $3.2 Billion in state bond debt and burden all Americans with another $3 Billion in federal debt; and
(3) Californians with $3.2 Billion in cash gladly exchange it for California General Obligation Bonds backed by the “full faith and credit of the State of California” [Note 2].

Additionally, two key provisions of Senate Bill 3034 are willfully ignored by California’s Legislature.  The first mandates that any “(rail) corridor or usable segment thereof would be ready for high-speed train operation” [Note 3] and the second mandates that “the planned passenger service by the authority in the corridor or usable segment thereof would not require a local, state, or federal operating subsidy” [Note 4]. 

In other words, high speed rail must profitably carry passengers between Merced and Bakersfield.  This seems highly unlikely as the planned expenditure does not include funds for electrification or for any high-speed trains and because almost all high-speed rail routes require substantial operating subsidies, even those operating between large population centers [Note 5].

But, just for fun, imagine a world post California HSR from Merced to Bakersfield when Californians and all Americans wake up to the reality of this wasteful expenditure of their taxpayer dollars; an expenditure nearly 50 times larger than Alaska’s fabled (but never built) $200 Million “Bridge to Nowhere”.

This blogger sees a world where membership in the Tea Party explodes and new converts journey to California’s Central Valley to witness the waste first-hand and to be baptized into the Tea Party in the waters of an irrigation ditch bisected by high speed rail.  A new Tea Party majority demands a Constitutional Amendment forbidding the Federal Government from ever again granting federal dollars to any state or agency operating within a state.  Angry voters make California one of many new “Red States”.  Governor Brown is saved from a recall effort only because voters remember what happened the last time they recalled a governor.

New words enter our lexicon.  The verb, “Pringlemander”, denotes excessive twisting and bending of the law.   “Authority” (as in California High Speed Rail Authority) replaces the words “cult” (a group of persons possessing a common irrational belief system) and “trough” (as in hogs feeding at the trough).  

The citizenry of the entire nation wake up to the corrupt practice of businesses and labor unions buying politicians with campaign contributions AND politicians buying the votes of ordinary citizens with promises of entitlements that can’t possibly be afforded. 

With these as unintended consequences, high speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield might not be such a terrible thing after all.  All-aboard!! 

Note 1   California High Speed Rail Authority Press Release dated April 4, 2011

Note 2  “Matching” state bond money
 January 2010 $1.656 Billion (50/50) match of ARRA Funds
 October 2010 $.306 Billion to “match” $.715 Billion FRA Funds
 December 2010 $.616 Billion (50/50) match of ARRA Funds (given back by Ohio and Wisconsin)
 April 2011 $.60 Billion to “match” $2.43 Billion in ARRA Funds (given back by Florida)

Note 3  California Senate Bill 3033 Chapter 20, Article 1, Section 2704.08; paragraph (c)(2)(H)

Note 4  California Senate Bill 3033 Chapter 20, Article 1, Section 2704.08; paragraph (c)(2)(J)

Note 5  New York Times article, Spain’s High-Speed Rail Offers Guideposts for U.S.

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