Neel Kashkari, Job Killer
The Republican who brought you the bank bailout, Neel Kashkari, wants to be the next governor of California. He’s taking the tried and true Meg Whitman approach, which worked so well that she lost to Jerry Brown by 13 points despite outspending him 7 to 1. He wants to focus on jobs and education, but in the right-wing sense of cutting taxes and regulations in hopes that good jobs magically appear. We’ve tried that for 35 years and it’s clear that’s a failing model.
You would think that someone who wants more jobs in California would embrace the high speed rail project, which will create thousands of jobs in the next few years in the San Joaquin Valley, home to double digit unemployment. But like Meg Whitman before him, Kashkari is coming out against the high speed rail project – and against the thousands of jobs that it will bring to a part of the state desperately in need of them.
— Neel Kashkari (@neelkashkari) January 28, 2014
Well, I’m not sure what he means by “slow speed train.” I am guessing he does not understand how construction works, that HSR will open in stages and phases, using legacy tracks to reach downtown SF and downtown LA at speeds below 150 mph. But the bullet train will still travel at 220 mph in the Central Valley and have an average speed far, far faster than Amtrak California trains. It will still connect SF to LA in less than three hours.
Did the costs go up from 2008? They sure did. But Kashkari seems to think that it’s somehow financially prudent to kill an HSR project that costs $68 billion in order to spend at least $150 billion or so to expand freeways and airports to handle the travel demand that HSR will carry at half the cost. He must also think it’s prudent to spend billions on mitigating climate change rather than reducing CO2 emissions.
But wait, Kashkari doesn’t believe HSR will actually reduce CO2 emissions, despite what the experts say:
@neelkashkari when it comes to CO2, I trust CARB, which actually knows what it's talking about. LAO are economists, not CO2 experts
— Robert Cruickshank (@cruickshank) January 29, 2014
Seriously, the Legislative Analysts Office are a bunch of budget number crunchers. They have no background in CO2 emission reductions, and if they decide to do opine on the topic, they ought to defer to the actual experts. That would be the California Air Resources Board, which has included HSR in its scoping plans for meeting the state’s CO2 reduction goals for over five years.
Kashkari also clearly misunderstands how economics works when he makes this claim about HSR spending:
@ChrisMegerian Federal funding is total fiction. CA taxpayers will be on the hook. It will crowd out more important priorities.
— Neel Kashkari (@neelkashkari) January 29, 2014
The “crowding out” claim is a core right-wing concept that implies government spending somehow comes at the expense of other spending. In reality, infrastructure spending is a multiplier when it comes to jobs and overall GDP.
Further, building HSR generates new economic activity through the green dividend. By reducing spending on oil and through other economic activity created by the high speed train, California could see as much as $10 billion a year in new economic activity. I’m not quite sure why Neel Kashkari is against that.
California suffered from the recession not because of overspending or regulations, but because the state is much too dependent on burning fossil fuels. Reducing CO2 emissions and oil consumption are essential to lasting prosperity. And during what may be the worst drought in the post-conquest history of California, one would imagine that doing anything possible to stop climate change would be a priority. Kashkari is making his position clear: California’s future doesn’t matter and isn’t worth thinking about, no matter the cost.
You might wonder why it’s worth spending even a moment debunking the claims of a candidate who will lose the election by double digit percentage points. I always think it’s good practice to expose the flawed claims and harmful ideas held by major political figures.
But Kashkari’s “kill the train” demand takes on added relevance at this crucial moment for the HSR project. California Democrats are faced with a clear choice. They can side with Governor Brown and President Obama and build HSR to help provide immediate job creation and long-term economic growth while also reducing CO2 emissions. Or they can side with the Tea Party, Meg Whitman, and Neel Kashkari and kill the train despite its numerous benefits.
In an election year, you’d think their choice would be an easy one. Build the train for California’s present – and for its future.