Three months ago, Jerry Brown was winning praise from state journos for naming savvy people to the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority who were much more honest about the numbers and the project in general, especially this guy. This had Sacramento speculating he was setting the stage for the bullet train’s demise, as this new honesty produced a jaw-dropping new $98 billion cost estimate for a statewide system that didn’t even reach San Diego or Sacramento. Now Jerry is mocking the cost estimate as too high and saying the proceeds from cap-and-trade will help pay for the bullet train. Has Jerry been smoking PCP? Is this a first sign that we’re about to witness our governor’s ugly public descent into senescence? One way or the other, this much it’s obvious: It’s time to revive Gov. Moonbeam as a nickname. Unless this is some sort of freaky iPhone 5 Zen triangulation, Jerry appears to have lost his mind.
As I have written before, at a fundamental level, the gov hasn’t figured out that the biggest problem with the bullet train isn’t that it’s been poorly managed. It’s an immense flop because it was built on BS.
In 2008, Proposition 1A, which provided $9.95 billion in bond seed money for the project, was marketed relentlessly with myths and exaggerations and falsehoods. When examined, the rail project …
… has been trashed by independent experts for years for deceitful estimates of ridership, project cost, ticket cost, job creation and pollution reduction, and for the inability of its staff to craft a legal business plan that avoids future taxpayer operating subsidies.
So now it’s January 2012, and after three years of experts exposing all manner of bullet train lies, what does Jerry Brown want to do to revive the project?
Start a fresh round of lies.
“It’s not going to be $100 billion,” the Democratic governor said on ABC 7′s Eyewitness Newsmakers program. “That’s way off.”
You see, Jerry knows best. When it comes to evaluating this complex project with a million moving parts, he knows more than the engineers working on the construction plan. He knows more than the industry experts on the peer review panel. He knows more the state auditor, the state legislative analyst and the University of California’s Institute for Transportation.
And after he’s done fixing the bullet train, Jerry Brown will use his all-encompassing genius to cure the common cold and end male-pattern baldness.
But the ludicrousness of his comments to ABC-7 go beyond his offering himself up as Jerry Brown: Ultimate Engineer. The idea of using AB 32 cap-and-trade funds to pay for the bullet train hasn’t been fully explained, but the linkage is almost certainly based on the old lies about the bullet train’s alleged hugely beneficial environmental effects, which built off the nutty idea that the bullet train amounted to mass transit that would move millions of people out of their cars on a daily basis.
This was one of the most egregious of all the lies used to sell the bullet train in 2008: the assertion that when it was completed, it would carry 117 million passengers a year. That’s exactly four and a half times the number of people that Amtrak carries per year, and it operates 500 stations with 22,000 miles of track in 46 states.
Only ridership of that preposterously exaggerated a level can produce anything like the old Prop. 1A claims for pollution reduction.
And as for the idea that the bullet train was mass transit, last fall at a joint interview I participated in, Tom Umberg, the chair of the bullet train board, and Roelof Van Ark, the rail authority CEO, specifically disavowed that claim.
Later they were pushed out, with Brown pal Dan Richard brought in to save the day and bring new honesty, allegedly, to the project.
Now it turns out the Umberg and Van Ark wouldn’t have fit in with the new iteration of the bullet train, because the governor has decided to re-embrace the old policy of lying about it through his teeth, and them saying the project wasn’t mass transit just wouldn’t have meshed.
Finally, I’ve been waiting for years to see what Sacramento did with the billions of dollars in cap-and-trade fees that will roll in if AB 32 is allowed to proceed even though its original rationale is now preposterous and demonstrably false. (No, it didn’t inspire the rest of the world to copy California by forcing residents to accept a broad switch to cleaner but costlier energy.)
I remember a discussion with former Schwarzenegger adviser David Crane and other fans of AB 32 about the fact that higher energy costs are going to be much harder on poor people than the middle class or rich. I was told, no, the cap-and-trade fees would be used to insulate them from the economic pain caused by the regressive effects of higher energy costs.
And I snickered. Yeah, sure, that’s who is going to benefit. Yeah, sure.
I always assumed cap-and-trade billions would be diverted to government employees’ compensation instead of to poor people. Now, hilariously enough, the governor wants the billions to go for a boondoggle transportation project of the sort favored by wealthy suburbanites and rail cultists.
The poor people who could desperately use either buses or relief from sharply higher energy costs just around the corer?
Bleep ‘em. Jerry Brown’s got a vision!