‘Solyndra Times Seven’: A new frame for the bullet-train debacle

The national media have devoted plenty of skeptical attention to California’s bullet-train boondoggle—from the ballooning cost of the California High-Speed Rail Authority project to its shoddy management to the baffling decision to build the first segment in the lightly populated Central Valley. But the press has yet to focus on a crucial fact: the bullet train isn’t just some quirky Left Coast fiasco; it’s also a grotesque waste of federal money. The project serves as a powerful reminder of the Obama administration’s mishandling of the $787 billion stimulus that Congress passed in February 2009 with solemn assurances of prudence and accountability. The bullet-train project, in fact, can be thought of as “Solyndra times seven”—that’s how far its costs outstrip those of the much-touted Bay Area solar panel manufacturer that burned through $528 million in federal loans before declaring bankruptcy and folding last September.

That’s the lead of my new piece for City Journal California. It’s step one in my campaign to make the bullet train a national story about stimulus insanity, not just about a crazy folly unfolding in the goofy Golden State.

Thanks to my old friends John and Ken at KFI 640 AM for giving attention to the column on their show Wednesday. You can hear them talk about the bullet train fiasco and my commentary for about 20 minutes beginning at the 12:40 mark of this on-demand podcast.

4 thoughts on “‘Solyndra Times Seven’: A new frame for the bullet-train debacle

  1. I would like to see a calculation of the costs to service the $100,000,000,000 debt we will have to incur to build this monstrosity. Even at 4% (a rate we will probably not be able to get as borrowers), that is $4,000,000,000 per year. During the entire twenty or thirty years it will take to build this train to fiscal oblivion, we will have to be paying the debt service.
    So, prior to the first paying passenger, we will already be on the hook for billions, or tens of billions, in annual debt payments which can only come from the general fund (since there won’t be any passengers).

    • Markie Marxist sez: “Only $5.4 million per job? Surely we can nufnel capitalist America’s money down a rat hole faster than that. Maybe we can get it to an even $10 million in Obama’s second term. I guess there’s a learning curve to it.”

  2. Good piece but you should have put this debacle into historical context for public consumption as the train to no where.

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