Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some end of the day thoughts about funding high-speed rail or not

Spent the day reading about the political process to hammer out a budget in Washington.  There are some intelligent Senators on both sides of the aisle seeking long term and consequential solutions to deficit reductions.  In that context, high-speed rail is trivial, almost a rounding error.

See this CNN Money article for an example of what I'm talking about.

You may not agree with the process or the people involved, but that's not the point here.  The point here is that these guys are trying to look at the big picture.  High-speed rail is not part of the big picture. 

That does not mean HSR will be ignored.  The people who will pay close attention to high-speed rail, especially in California, are the California Republicans such as Kevin McCarthy and Tom McClintock.  And, as it happens, they see this project for what it really is, with the make-up and costume off.  As we know, it's not a pretty picture. 

So, what about the President's National High-Speed Rail agenda?  To begin with, fully built out, it will cost well over one trillion dollars.

To be sure, a trillion dollars is quite a bit of money, and there will NEVER be anything like this amount assembled for high-speed rail.  Even Obama's grand gesture to promote his "Winning the Future" vision of high-speed rail amounts to a $53 billion addition to the Transportation budget, and that's intended to be spread around the United States over a period of six years.  And, $53 billion won't build his vision; not by a long shot.  It's a token intended to be start-up money. Actually it's intended to be stimulus funding in the name of high-speed rail, but that's another discussion. 

So what is going on?  The fact that high-speed rail is Obama's vision and has become one of Secretary Ray LaHood's  major talking points, is exactly why the Tea Party Republicans are determined to shut it down. Of course, there are many rationalizations for this, such as deficit reduction, waste of tax dollars and unnecessary growth of government bureaucracy, but the real reason is that it's Obama's Vision!  

The Republican agenda for 2012, if I read it correctly, is to make Obama a one-term president.  One way to move that forward is to take his vanity/legacy visionary program, make him look foolish for supporting it, and end it.  Three Governors have already done that for their states. (Never mind the rationalizing political rhetoric that's been flying around.) The way to do that is to show it for what it is, a wasteful, mindless, mis-conceived project that epitomizes boondoggles and pork-barrel politics. 

The Republicans are getting a huge amount of help to make this case by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which couldn't be more efficient at becoming a cruel joke of incompetence, corruption, and shallow back-room politics if they tried. That certainly adds fuel to the fire for making the argument to shut it down. 

The fact is that this project is a boondoggle of galactic proportions.  The number of people hoping to become rich and powerful by riding this horse are many.  

The more visible it becomes, the Republicans, if they wished, will have an easier job of killing this monstrous money-devouring monster, which is daring them to attack a nearly 'sacred' concept of overweening arrogance, a train that is built on platitudes.