Friday, July 13, 2012

High speed rail or schools?

I usually try very hard to avoid paying attention to California politics because I find it too discouraging to know about.  But, Sacramento has managed to penetrate my zone of ignorance with an amazing bit of nonsense.

Apparently, the California legislature has approved roughly $6 billion funding of a high-speed rail project being started in central California, the “bullet train.”  The total price for this train is estimated to be about $69 billion, but that will increase dramatically I am sure before it is all over. 

This is some kind of ideological dream of some on the left.  Why it is important to them has always eluded me since it is obvious to me that it will just be a faster version of Amtrak.  That is to say, it will be a huge expense to build, will go to places few will want to go to, will likely be mismanaged and inefficient when in operation, and will attract not nearly enough riders to allow it to be profitable.  But, it gets funds from the Dems in Sacramento, who are apparently in bed with the unions pushing the project.

At the same time, California is deeply in the red.  Indeed, if the voters don’t vote for a proposed tax increase proposed by Governor Brown there will be an automatic trigger to cut…here’s the fun part… roughly $6 billion dollars from the budget. 

And, of course, the train won’t be cut, something much less (?) important will be cut… education.   Apparently, most of the cuts will come from public education by reducing the school year from 175 days to 160 days.  Maybe the politicians are just admitting that the California public school system is pathetic anyway (teachers’ unions protecting bad teachers and bad schools?), so why bother to prolong the charade?

And, oh yes, apparently the California legislature rejected Governor Gerry Brown’s pension overhaul plan, and substituted some toothless thing that they can pretend to be a reform. 

Good grief, if even a long time Democrat and liberal Gerry Brown can’t convince the unions and his own party to be fiscally responsible, who can? 

I had been ready to bite the bullet and vote for a tax increase because it has been apparent to me that the state of California really is out of money:  they are defunding parks, laying off police, firemen, and teachers, cutting back on libraries, releasing prisoners, dramatically raising college tuitions, cutting funds to cities (resulting in some city bankruptcies), and other things that I don’t even know about (except the roads seem to be in pretty bad shape too). 

But when these politicians decide to spend approximately $6 billion on an ideologically driven waste of money (the bullet train), and then threaten to cut school funding by about that same $6 billion, I despair for the future of the most beautiful state in the country. 

I have been trying very hard over the last few years to see both sides of an argument, and to see people I disagree with as having good intentions.  OK, so unions want jobs and Democrats need union support to get elected.  So, the Dems are hoping that the Reps will allow them to raise taxes rather than cut funding to the schools.  Fine, until you put the $6 billion into the train.  There, you have totally lost me.  A pox on Sacramento is what I say.

I will now go back to hiding my head in the sand regarding California politics.  It's bad for my emotional health to pay too close attention to it.