Here is an interesting article in the Washington Post recounting the ups and downs of Californi’s proposed high-speed railroad that if built would eventually link San Diego and San Francisco, although its first segment is proposed for the middle of nowhere, in the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Fresno. The Post article contains a good, balanced summary of the problem, and if you haven’t been following the California high speed railroad caper, is a good place to get briefed on the problem. See Plans for High-Speed Rail Are Slowing Down, The Washington Post, January 15, 2012, click here
In the meantime, back in California, Governor Jerry Brown takes the position of “damn the growing State debt, full speed ahead.” He wants that railroad built, and he wants to start construction now. Evidently, at least according to the Times, the Guv wants to establish his “legacy” in the form of construction of major projects that will make California what it once was, when his father was Governor. Nice try, Jerry.
The problem is that today’s California is flat broke and considers it an annual achievement to cobble together a state budget that is only a few billion short of being balanced. Make no mistake, we happen to like choo-choo trains ourselves and use them regularly on our trips to San Diego, but as the Good Book says, for everything there is a season, and right now, when the once Golden State of California is flat-broke, may not be the time to take on a debt of some $100 billion that, as all other projected costs of public projects, is certain to wind up costing much more than that.
See Governor Jerry Brown’s State of that State Speech Puts Focus on Big Projects, January 19, 2012 – click here
For an alternative vision of California we offer the following excerpt from today’s column of historian Victor Davis Hansen:
“In my state, Californians for 40 years have hiked taxes; grown their
government; vastly expanded entitlements; put farmland, timberland and oil and
gas lands off limits; and opened their borders to millions of illegal aliens.
They apparently assumed that they had inherited so much wealth from prior
generations and that their state was so naturally rich, that a continually
better life was their natural birthright.
“It wasn’t. Now, as in Greece, the veneer of civilization is proving pretty thin in California. Hospitals no longer have the money to offer sophisticated long-term medical care to the indigent.
Cities no longer have the funds to self-insure themselves from the accustomed
barrage of monthly lawsuits. When thieves rip copper wire out of street lights,
the streets stay dark. Most state residents would rather go to the dentist these
days than queue up and take a number at the Department of Motor
Vehicles. Hospital emergency rooms neither have room nor act as if there’s
much of an emergency.
“Traffic flows no better on most of the state’s freeways than it did 40 years
ago — and often much worse, given the crumbling infrastructure and increased
traffic. Once-excellent K-12 public schools now score near the bottom in
nationwide tests. The California state university system
keeps adding administrators to the point where they have almost matched the
number of faculty, although half of the students who enter CSU need remedial
reading and math. Despite millions of dollars in tutoring, half the students
still don’t graduate. The taxpayer is blamed in constant harangues for not
ponying up more money, rather than administrators being faulted for a lack of
In 1960 there were far fewer government officials, far fewer prisons, far
fewer laws and far fewer lawyers — and yet the state was a far safer place than
it is a half-century later. Technological progress — whether iPhones or Xboxes
— can often accompany moral regress. There are not yet weeds in our cities, but
those too may be coming.
“The average Californian, like the average Greek, forgot that civilization is
fragile. Its continuance requires respect for the law, tough-minded education,
collective thrift, private investment, individual self-reliance, and common
codes of behavior and civility — and exempts no one from those rules. Such
knowledge and patterns of civilized behavior, slowly accrued over centuries, can
be lost in a single generation.”
Afterthought. For another excellent article juxtaposing the state of California in bygone days with its current condition, read Jennifer Rubin, California, There It Went, Commentary, October 2010, at p. 43. Rubin writes not only as a journalist, but also as a former resident who lived in California for 40 years, and then decided to move back East.