Debra J. Saunders

A few things have happened since California voters approved $10 billion in bonds for a $45 billion California High-Speed Rail project -- which promised to take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes -- in 2008. Most recently, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny blocked the release of $8 billion in bonds because the California High-Speed Rail Authority "abused its discretion" by not complying with the law. Kenny found that the bullet train board failed to show how it expects to fund itself and lacks all the environmental clearances needed for the system's initial 300-mile segment.

More importantly, in the past few months, voters have had a chance to see how quickly big government projects can go wrong.

Take the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement. Obama's campaign operation was heralded for its ability to use the Internet to get out the vote and win elections. But the federal government cannot match the successes of the campaign operation.

And it's not just HealthCare.gov that crashed. The White House anticipated a half-million enrollees in October to ensure that the scheme be actuarially viable; instead, the government signed on a fraction of the goal, 106,000 people.

To sell Obamacare, the president had promised Americans that if they liked their health plans, they could keep them. Instead, 5 million Americans will lose their individual policies at the end of the year.

Oh, and Obamacare is not affordable. In October, Obama read a letter from a single mother from Washington thanking him for winning her access to an affordable plan. In November, Jessica Sanford told reporters she was wrong -- she did not qualify for subsidies -- and she would not be able to afford to purchase insurance.

The obstructionist tactics of local politicians such as then-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown helped delay the construction of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge; it took 24 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake to complete the 2.2-mile span -- at four times the original projected cost.

The project was a parade of horrors. Months before the new span's opening, engineers discovered cracks in 32 of 96 galvanized steel rods key to supporting the single-anchor suspension design.

Caltrans says it devised ways to compensate for the bad bolts, and commuters have little choice but to trust the folks who cracked the bolts.

So if public servants can't do a 2.2-mile span with uncracked bolts while taking their time, do I trust Sacramento to build an 800-mile high-speed rail project that is affordable, safe and swift?


Debra J. Saunders


 
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