Jeff Denham’s Attack on Jobs
Yesterday freshman Congressman Jeff Denham published an op-ed in the Modesto Bee calling for the high speed rail project to be defunded and its money given to pay for minor projects along the Highway 99 corridor. The op-ed is a marvel of dissembling and disinformation, so tread cautiously:
Over the years, many proposals have been offered to bring High Speed Rail (HSR) to California. As a state senator, I supported the concept of HSR in California, and still do now, as a congressman, but since its inception, the plan has been severely mismanaged and proven to be another example of runaway government spending with no results.
In other words, Denham backed it when he actually represented Californians, but now that he is in Congress and represents oil companies and the Koch Brothers, he has to attack the project in order to have any sort of political future and not get cut off by his paymasters. This is what we call a “flip flop” – if not worse.
And he justifies it by bringing the lies:
Unfortunately, the current plan has been developed behind closed doors, with costs doubling to $65 billion, according to independent experts; missed deadlines, confusion and no clear blueprint other than glossy maps with little specificity.
None of this is true. The project has been developed through a series of public meetings. Plans are discussed openly. Blueprints are posted for public debate. We have hashed out various aspects of the project for nearly three years now on this blog, all of it based on the information provided to us by the California High Speed Rail Authority.
What deadlines were missed? The 2008 Business Plan deadline, when the legislature – including Jeff Denham – missed their own deadline to fund the Authority’s work to get the plan done?
What “independent experts” are these that claim the costs will double to $65 billion? Might that be the oil company funded Reason Foundation? Hardly an independent group, and they are hardly experts. Their claims are wild guesses.
Denham keeps on shoveling the BS:
The California High Speed Rail Authority originally projected ridership of 96.5 million intercity riders by 2030. Independent groups now estimate 31.1 million intercity riders by 2030 – nearly 60 percent below what was presented to voters. Due to uncertainty over costs and ridership forecasts, private equity firms say they will not invest without a revenue guarantee. Without securing private investment, the HSR project in California is not feasible.
Again, what “independent groups” are these? I’m not familiar with that study he is vaguely referring to. But we know that HSR systems around the world and here in the US routinely meet their projected ridership levels. By 2030, with gas prices being sky-high and when a generation of Americans who prefer not to drive become the dominant force in society, it is entirely reasonable to assume that ridership will hit the projected numbers. Those who claim a lower level need to explain why, suddenly, long-term trends toward higher gas prices and less vehicle miles traveled will suddenly reverse.
In fact, we have no evidence at all that private investors are demanding a revenue guarantee, and we have plenty of evidence that they do not see ridership risks at all – instead they are worried about the political risks, of people like Jeff Denham suddenly attacking a project they used to support in order to make nice with national right-wing donors.
In the meantime, state leaders should have the option to use funds already allocated to California on a project that will put people to work immediately. At a time of record unemployment in the valley, we need options. This is why I signed on to the San Joaquin Valley Transportation Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R. 761).
It allows California to redirect HSR funding to construct long overdue and urgently needed roadway improvements along Highway 99. This would provide sufficient funding to establish a six-lane freeway from Sacramento to Bakersfield while vastly improving the heavily congested corridor’s safety and improving air quality. Unlike HSR, which has at least two years before one shovel of dirt would be turned, the improvements to Highway 99 are shovel ready and would put people back to work immediately.
I’m all for funding the improvements to Highway 99 if Denham wants to. But there’s no reason that money has to come from high speed rail. The United States is an extremely wealthy country. Denham should propose a gas tax increase to fund projects like Highway 99 widening, or find some other source of money. He could also simply support borrowing the money, since going into debt during a severe recession to fund infrastructure projects is a sensible and fiscally responsible move.
But that’s not Denham’s move. Instead he is making excuses for defunding trains and funding roads, all to please his new constituents – the rich oil company donors who now rule his world.