SF Democrats and progs unite behind high-speed rail boondoggle
It's as if local Democrats and progressives are determined to confirm the tax-and-spend label pinned on them by Republicans with their mindless, knee-jerk approach to the costly, financially preposterous high-speed rail project in California. It's pretty pathetic that only Debra Saunders and District 5 Diary are local skeptics of this boondoggle. (The project has a figleaf of bipartisanship, since SF Republican Quentin Kopp was on the CHSR board and is still a booster.)
Our local Democratic Party leadership is leading the lemming-like rush to the cliff on the issue: Senators Feinstein and Boxer, Representative Pelosi, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, State Senator Mark Leno, Lieutenant-Governor Newsom.
With the exception of Saunders---who aptly dubs high-speed rail as the Democrats' version of Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere---the local media has been just as bad as our local politicians:
BeyondChron runs a cutesy press release from US Pirg supporting high-speed rail.
The leftist Fog City also runs a press release---with the photo above---from Mayor Newsom's office touting high-speed rail and also lists a pro-HSR blog on its blogroll.
The ultra-left Bay Guardian supports high-speed rail and scolded Meg Whitman for her sensible opposition to the project during her losing campaign for governor.
Bay Citizen has an uncritical story on HSR and the transit corridors theory that relies on Gabriel Metcalf as a source.
Putting CHSR in context, a recent LA Times story delivers the bad news about California's bond debt:
While the state faces a $25.4-billion deficit, $7.65 billion is tied up in debt service for the upcoming fiscal year, according to the state treasurer...Borrowed money has proved politically irresistible in Sacramento, a safe middle ground for politicians in the constant war between Democrats and Republicans over taxes and service cuts. Campaigns for bonds often herald them for providing projects and services without new taxes. Voters have approved borrowing in the last 10 years for such causes as stem-cell research ($3 billion), high-speed rail ($10 billion), and parks, water and the environment ($14 billion). They even took on $15 billion in debt to paper over a deficit that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said would never reemerge---something economists have scolded the state for doing. Because of its rock-bottom credit rating, California pays a premium for its loans. Taxpayers must fork over roughly $2 for every $1 borrowed---about 20% more than top-rated states...
The $10 billion in high-speed rail bonds state voters okayed in 2008 are not marketable so far, but they provide a good example of why bonds in general are increasingly a bad deal for California. From the 2008 voters guide on what it will cost the state if/when the bonds are sold:
State costs of about $19.4 billion, assuming 30 years to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion) costs of the bonds. Payments of about $647 million per year. When constructed, additional unknown costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year, to operate and maintain a high-speed train system...