I’m behind on posting Comments of the Day, and the first to be sprung from the backlog is this, from johnburger2013, giving yet another account of political leaders defeating the public will to pursue expensive and irresponsible projects that do not and cannot live up to the promises made to justify them. I wonder if there is a category of informed people who simultaneously deride the motivation for the Brexit vote, and yet condemn debacles like the California high-speed rail project. The issue, as it usually is, is trust.
Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day (that day being almost a weeks ago) on the post, California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco:
Here in Houston, there is a constant litany of ideas about what to do with the Astrodome, it being one of the man-made wonders of the world (until the King Dome left it in the dust). The Dome was moth-balled when Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) was built about 11 years ago, after the Astros got their own facility in Downtown Houston (thank you, taxpayers), and the Dynamo got their own facility (thank you, taxpayers), and the Houston Texans got NRG Stadium (again, thank you, taxpayers). The Rockets never played there, but they have a new stadium, too (thank you a fourth time, taxpayers), so they are not to blame. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo doesn’t use the facility either, because they use NRG for their events (the parking stinks, though, as big-ass crowds of people have to take limited numbers of buses and light rail [which only goes to downtown, thank you a fifth time, taxpayers] to outlying parking venues).
The question posed by the unfolding California high-speed rail cataclysm is why the reaction to it should be a partisan or ideological issue at all. Are human beings capable of managing bias and learning hard truths from new information, or aren’t they?
High speed rail was promoted in California as a green and virtuous way to propel commuters from San Francisco to Los Angeles along at 220 miles an hour, completing the trip in a about two and a half hours. It was going to involve minimal tax-payer cash, with billions arriving from private investors. It would be profitable, not requires state subsidies and be much less expensive than flying. Thus enthused and enlightened, 53.7 percent of approved the plan and a $9.95 billion bond.
It was a scam, a hustle, and a pack of lies. Virginia Postrel writes at Bloomberg…
“California’s high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?”
Well said. I would add, “And will anyone learn from this fiasco?” Specifically, will anyone learn that ideologically-driven officials will always press policies in defiance of reality, if the public lets them, or more precisely, trusts them.
The Los Angeles Times published a stunning report on how corrupt this enterprise has been from the start. Here’s sample: