Until recently, Many California leftists claimed that their Great Leader, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown, had created a surplus for his loving people. Perhaps they felt it was a way to show conservative Republicans that a government could be known as a leftie stronghold while balancing budgets.
There’s just one problem with this, something that was revealed last year by Hans Bader, of CNS news, and is now being exposed even further. Turns out, the great “surplus” became a deficit when 2016 spending numbers were “discovered” to have been undercounted by $1.9 billion, and, this week, the Brown government revealed that the magical “bullet train” being built by the government between Los Angeles and San Francisco will run, get this, an estimated $77.9 billion by the time the first few trains might possibly run in 2029. That’s an increase of $13 billion from estimates provided two years ago.
The price of the California bullet train project jumped sharply Friday when the state rail authority announced that the cost of connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco would be $77.3 billion and could rise as high as $98.1 billion — an uptick of at least $13 billion from estimates two years ago.
Can you imagine a private company doing this? Of course not. But the California government can take people’s money without asking them to voluntarily offer it; they can take the cash through taxation, which Brown and his allies have been doing, seemingly with pride.
Just last year, Jerry signed a bill that increased gas taxes and vehicle fees by $5.2 billion annually, and many residents believed the money would be reserved for highway and bridge repairs. But as Republican California State Assembly member Melissa Melendez noted last year, nearly 30% is not being used on roads and bridges. Some is being spent on university projects, some for job training for felons, and some for parks, to name just a few divergences. Oh, and then there’s the money that will go towards, yeah, you got it, trains.
Yet this group of politicians want to shell out between $77.3 and $98.1 billion on a “high speed” rail system between the City of Angels and the Gate City of San Fran.
But this is not just a run-of-the-mill example of bad governance or legislative tomfoolery that should be lined up beside so many others in US and world history. This story includes in it an historical and economic lesson we can learn, and that lesson is about public rail projects.
Public rail is always, without exception, a loser. From the time of the boondoggle “Transcontinental Railway” which was years over time and millions over budget thanks to government cronyism.
And this tradition has not stopped. As I noted in my book, “Live Free or Die”, when factoring for tax subsidies and loans, no public rail line in history has run in the black.
In fact, almost anyone familiar with how politicians and special interests work can note that rail projects are ways to force taxpayers who don’t live near the lines and will likely not use them to subsidize rail users, rail builders and employees, and business interests located near the rail stops. The story hasn’t changed since the days of the Transcontinental Railroad, when workers would knowingly plant rails on permafrost, aware that the land would shift in the spring, and they would be able to charge more to the feds for conducting the repairs.
If a rail line is a good economic investment, there is no need to subsidize it. If there is a market for the transportation, customers will be attracted, and private investors will line up to loan start-up cash.
In fact, this is precisely what happened during the time of the Transcontinental Railroad. What many Americans don’t know is that while the feds were bungling and pocketing huge collections of taxpayer money for themselves, the privately run Great Northern Railway successfully beat the government at its own game, creating a transcontinental rail under time and at budget.
Nothing in politics changes.
But it’s important to look at the contemporary stories and try not to get frustrated. Rather, we can use them as catapults to go back into history and learn, then spread that information to others…
…Even as collectivists tell us how “financially responsible” they are in places like California.