Our taxes are sky-high. Our budget shortfalls are chronic and severe. There are cities in the Valley that don’t have clean drinking water and we’re told that we don’t have the resources to keep criminals in prison. Yet the politicians in Sacramento are debating over how much to raise our taxes and where to put high speed rail. It’s not only that our politicians don’t have any answers; they’re asking the wrong questions. Instead of going back and forth over Molly Munger’s tax increase vs. Gov. Brown’s tax increase, leaders need to cut spending so that we don’t need to raise taxes on hard-working Californians. Instead of trying to minimize the adverse impacts of high speed rail, leaders need to have the courage to scrap the project now, before millions of more dollars are spent on consultants and analyses before a single inch of ground is broken.
It’s not just that High Speed Rail is the embodiment of skewed priorities in Sacramento. There’s also something more fundamental than that. The problem is the premise that government has the ability to run a massive project that is supposed to make at least enough money to sustain itself. (See, U.S. Postal Service.) The government is only good at making money when it takes it by threat of force. The government is not designed to compete in the free market. Moreover, if building high speed rail tracks through the Valley were a money-making idea some entrepreneur would be implementing it by now.
This concept has been illustrated repeatedly with the multiple business plans put forward by the High Speed Rail Authority. Imagine you are on a board of investors or venture capitalists and the High Speed Rail Authority is an entrepreneur seeking investment. Imagine further that they proposed a $100 billion project during one meeting. Then, at the next meeting they put forward a substantially different plan with a $68 billion price tag. There’s not an investor in the world that would move forward with such a project. They’d know that the proposal had not been well-thought out and should be scrapped. If a businessperson put forward the kind of radically-changing plans we have seen out of the High Speed Rail Authority, they’d be fired. That’s not to denigrate the people working for and with the Authority, rather its an indictment of government’s ability to work efficiently without the unforgiving incentives of the free market.
We need to be the cold, sober voice of reality. We can’t afford High Speed Rail. It must be stopped so we can focus on our true priorities.