Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lies, and the Lying High-Speed Rail Liars who tell them

That the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been far from truthful over the years is no surprise.  Weekly revelations of untrue statements continue to be broadcast in the press. The most recent "black eyes" for the rail authority is the discovery that their jobs claims have been hot air, and that Amtrak isn't interested in the tracks that they are going to be given by the HSR authority, since they can't afford to build HSR tracks, as they are required to by law. 

But, there are some things that have not yet been made sufficiently clear, with the notable exception in the writings of Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee.

What I'm talking about is the political underpinnings of this project. We already know that massive funds (around $700 million) were thrown at the Central Valley, Democratic Congressman Jim Costa's district, to be precise, in order to facilitate his re-election. (He was is electoral trouble, and these funds saved his political rear end.)

One of the most obvious reasons why all of the $8 billion in ARRA stimulus funds were spread around the US, mostly to Amtrak upgrades, is that they were intended as earmarked pork for Democrat distribution by the Obama White House. 

The High-Speed Rail program continues to be promoted by the White House and Administration in the name of jobs for the unemployed and stimulation of the moribund economy.  In other words, it's not about trains, transit or transportation.  It's about political pork. 

To be fair, the Republicans, in their HSR opposition, are not blameless regarding political reasoning.  In this election season, they wish to deny the Democrats their signature "winning the future" agenda in the name of deficit and debt reduction.  It's part of their broader political strategy to deny the Democrats any success whatsoever.  

So, to focus more precisely on the California situation, the train project, despite its deplorable track-record (so to speak), is on track to be funded to start construction in the Central Valley.  

There is only one reason available to the California Democrats who continue to support this project, and that's the free $3.3 billion from the FRA.  It's a huge amount of money and California is cash-poor. Tax increases have no chance whatsoever, the state is borrowed out to the max., and unemployment in the Central Valley is the really bad.  

So, the political rhetoric goes, these funds will bail out California from the worst of these crisis-level problems. The reality of this is that none of these problems will actually be ameliorated, but that's how politics works; it's based on promises, not results.

Two fresh black eyes for bullet train

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s bullet-train project has gone haywire in so many ways that new stories about its problems sometimes barely register with a public that already regrets giving the project the go-ahead in 2008. Two revelations in the past week, however, demand attention.


First the San Jose Mercury News shredded the authority’s claim the project would create 1 million jobs. A more honest estimate would be 20,000 to 60,000 jobs, the newspaper found. The 1 million figure was derived through such tricks as counting a job projected to last 10 years as 10 jobs.


Then the Los Angeles Times showed that the state may not be able to fulfill a key condition put on using $3.4 billion of federal funds to build the first high-speed train segment in the Central Valley. The condition requires there be another use for the segment – “independent utility” – if the rest of the bullet-train project isn’t constructed.

The assumption has been that the segment could be used by Amtrak. But Amtrak’s present Central Valley route is popular and heavily traveled, and the national rail service hasn’t committed to using the bullet-train segment if it would otherwise be a white elephant.

Governor continues to support a pack of lies [I added that.]

These stories are fresh evidence of the propaganda used to sell the project and of the poor planning that has characterized it from day one. State leaders need to drop the bullet-train happy talk and stop ducking these ugly realities – starting with Jerry Brown. Well, governor?

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