The decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a dedicated progressive, to curtail California’s high-speed rail project over cost concerns is a sign that the “Green New Deal” is doomed.
The creation of a vast high-speed rail network is just one small part of the massive overhaul the “Green New Deal” contemplates for transportation, energy, healthcare, education, agriculture, housing, and a host of other issues. Yet now it’s gone down in flames in a state that previously voted for it, and in which liberals have overwhelming control of government.
The California high-speed rail project started when residents approved a ballot measure in 2008 for what was supposed to be a $40 billion project linking the Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco areas. The project received a boost from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation. Obama had made high-speed rail a central part of his vision for ” winning the future” in his 2011 State of the Union, envisioning linking 80 percent of the country by high-speed rail within 25 years. When Republicans in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida rejected high-speed rail money, it got shifted into the California project, which was supposed to be an example to the rest of the country.
In reality, the high-speed rail project ran into cost overruns, faced delays through the state’s environmental impact process, and was protested by local farmers who opposed the way it would carve up their land. And that was even though the early stage of the work was in the less populated Merced and Bakersfield areas in the Central Valley, which was supposed to be easier than the more densely populated urban areas.
The $40 billion initial cost estimate eventually shot up to as high as $117 billion for the whole project. A scaled-back version focusing on linking Los Angeles to San Francisco was to cost $77 billion.
In a Tuesday State of the State speech, Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor who ran on a bold progressive agenda, threw in the towel, saying, while they would be able to link Merced and Bakersfield in the Central Valley, “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.”
According to the LA Times, he said, “But let’s be real. The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”
If high-speed rail can’t make it in California, there is no way that liberals are going to be able to build a vast national high-speed rail network in many states that are less receptive to the idea. And again, this is just one small part of the “Green New Deal.” It doesn’t get into additional goals including generating 100 percent of power in the U.S. from renewables within a decade (from its current 17 percent) and upgrading every single building in the U.S. so that they’re all energy efficient. On top of free college, free healthcare, affordable housing, and a job guarantee.
“Green New Deal” advocates have tried to argue that their absurdly unrealistic plans could happen if people could just think big. But that’s exactly the argument that Obama tried to use in selling high-speed rail and other sweeping proposals.
A little over ten years ago, Obama declared in his first inaugural address, “Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans … What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”
But as Newsom is finding out, all of the lofty rhetoric in the world cannot change economic reality. The same lesson awaits those pushing the doomed “Green New Deal.”