Latest word on our proposed but misbegotten California “bullet train” is that our governor — in the words of a Los Angeles Times article subheading — “. . . hopes a booming nation will invest in California’s troubled rail project.” Anthony York, Brown Wants China Aboard, L.A. Times, April 12, 2013, p. AA1. Which nation might that be? China, of course; California isn’t exactly “booming.” In fact, it doesn’t have the proverbial two nickels to rub together by way of funding so major a project. To bring any newcomers to this blog up to date, the projected cost of the California “bullet” choo-choo hovers somewhere around $68 billion, while the voters, in their wisdom, having been duly snookered by overly optimistic politicians in the 2008 election, have approved only $9 billion. You can take it from there.
The L.A. Times article expresses vague platitudinous hopes about the prospects of a Chinese deal, but it is not clear what the Chinese “investment” would be. Rather, it sounds to us that what these guys are talking about is a deal in which the we would pay the Chinese for construction projects and maybe some rolling stock (since it seems like whenever anything comes up that requires any rolling stock, we have to buy it abroad because, it seems that these days nobody in America knows how to make a decent subway or railroad car). The Chinese would then “invest” our money, as is their wont, by putting it in their pockets, or using it to finance the People’s Red Army. But we digress. Or do we?
If you read the whole L.A. Times piece, it appears that the “investment” is nothing of the sort. What the Chinese are more likely after is our money — they may want to sell us rolling stock or maybe do some construction work which means that we would do the “investing” while they would pocket our money. That would get things done, but would also add to the balance-of-payments deficit and export more jobs across the Pacific. That may not be all bad, at least as seen by the global trade junkies. The Chinese do things cheaper, and — being unencumbered by our often absurd environmental laws (to say nothing of a hostile bureaucracy bound and determined to slow things down, stop major projects altogether) — faster.
Speaking of which (getting things done), don’t miss our governor’s quotable quote about how things are done in China:
“People here do stuff. They don’t sit around and mope and process and navel-gaze.”
We resist the urge to leap on that straight line by reminding the guv about the many California projects that languish for years while bureaucrats, courts and environmentalists use the law to “mope and process,” delaying construction of needed projects forever — or so it seems. You don’t believe us? Try building something in the California coastal zone, or for that matter in any upscale community — e.g., check out our recent posts about Marin County frustrating the expansion of LucasFilm studios until Lucas gave up in disgust. And in Los Angeles, the legislature had to waive environmental laws in order to get a new football stadium built, even though we don’t have an NFL team. A case of “If you build it, they’ll come,” if there ever was one.
So stick around and see how it goes. But don’t hold your breath while you’re at it. Remember, this is California, so as our governor concedes, we are in for some “moping and processing.”