Thursday, December 16, 2010

Information for 2011 New Year's Resolutions

Here are some reasons that the high-speed rail project should be terminated. There are numerous others, of course. The tides have turned in Washington and we will now have elected officials who are actually interested in what we have to say.

In short, the Republicans agree, as best as we can tell, to terminate this project in its tracks. The Democrats, so intently determined to bring federal dollars into California, care much less about the disreputable aspects and sequence of contemptible events with the CHSRA Board and staff. Those events date back decades, but have accumulated dramatically and visibly in recent months.

So, here's what I believe should be brought to the attention of the new Republican committee heads in the House, as well as the Republicans in the Senate.

1. The funding, which is intended to prime the HSR construction pump, will not create a self generating water pump, so to speak. It will have to be primed perpetually with state and federal funding. It's like priming a dry well.

2. The development costs, whatever they say they are, will skyrocket beyond reason. Budgeted at $43 billion, more experts are agreeing that it will be well over $100 billion. Who pays? Taxpayers.

3. The project is approaching scandal status. Numerous state agencies, such as the State Auditor and the Inspector General, have already criticized the mismanagement and illegalities. Even the HSR Peer Review committee, required by enabling legislation, is highly critical. In Washington, the FRA Inspector General has opened a case file on this project. That's the consequence of leading people to believe that the federal money source will be bottomless. Better to shut it down now; to do so will lower the white collar crime rate.

3. In California (or anywhere else), building a train nobody actually needs is stupid. But, on the other hand, not repairing the water sources system in our state is economically very dangerous. The rural Central Valley depends on Delta water. The state economy depends on Central Valley agriculture. Agriculture is California's cash cow. State and federal development dollars for HSR are thereby going to the wrong project. This is just one example of better use of tax dollars.

4. The jobs that HSR will generate -- the backbone of the Democratic argument for building the train -- are government jobs, not private sector jobs. That's no way to recover the economy; that just puts the permanent unemployment problem off a decade. The state has lost manufacturing jobs that all the trains in the world won't bring back.

5. Government funding (both state and national) should bolster the US and California economy. Instead, the money will go to overseas corporations that know how to construct and build HSR systems, since we don't. China may be the big winner here. (Example: The US should be the manufacturing leader in wind turbines for green energy. Yet, China is the world leader by far.)

6. Whether California's population grows as much as predicted is highly questionable. Furthermore, the current population growth is not in the cities of San Francisco or Los Angeles, the two terminals of the HSR, but out in the suburbs and away from the population centers. Why? Because that's also where the jobs are for new immigrant populations that do come to California. Yet, the train is being built (over the next ten years +) in regions where the population is declining, not where the populations are increasing.

7. The "hidden" agenda behind this train is "social engineering." The intent is to oblige populations to move from the suburbs into the inner cities. Terms like "smart growth" and "transit oriented development" are code for artificially created developers' construction opportunities. The HSR is an essential component of such coerced population shifting. This train is undesirable government intervention in our personal lives.

8. Money poured into this project is very expensive; it's all borrowed, with high interest costs, and it must be re-paid. The so-called "free" money from Washington is not free; it's also borrowed. The more money is spent, the more money will be borrowed. The project will not generate funds to repay all this debt, or even make interest payments. This project is not unlike a Ponzi scheme.

9. The history of Amtrak is a good lesson. Poor service at high costs. Huge subsidy obligations annually. Recent projects of such magnitude have a very bad track record of low-balled cost estimates, and grossly exaggerated 'productivity' such as ridership and revenues. This HSR will require massive operating subsidies, forever.

10. Based on as much documentation as is available, there is yet no evidence for an adequate and justifying demand for this train service. It's not just a "train to nowhere," but it's a train for almost "nobody." A white elephant we don't want and don't need.

11. It's not merely a matter of an over-extended State and Federal deficit and debt. Support for high-speed rail directs funds at a low priority project while neglecting high priority obligations.