California’s Insane Bullet Train
California is broke and broken. Its freeways and roads are crumbling. Many cities — like Stockton, which declared bankruptcy two weeks ago — are straining under hundreds of millions in bond debt and unfunded pensions for retired public workers.
In the face of a slow-motion fiscal train wreck, why would state lawmakers commit to spending $5.8 billion in state and federal funds on the first phase of a high-speed rail line that practically nobody wants in part of the state where practically nobody lives?
The state Senate on Friday narrowly approved legislation to start work on a 130-mile stretch of rail between Madera and Bakersfield, where a tiny fraction of Californians live and work — mostly on farms.
OK, a few folks want the Golden State’s high-speed train to nowhere: Urban planners, public-employee unions, the beleaguered construction industry and sundry green utopians with a hopeless case of China envy love the concept.
And Gov. Jerry Brown is a big fan, stubbornly standing by the plan even as he cut spending on welfare, education, parks and prisons.
Yet the best explanation may be the Obama administration’s desperation for a win. The US Department of Transportation thrust $3.5 billion in stimulus money into the state’s grubby hands (billions that Florida and Ohio wisely turned down) and said “build it.”