Building High Speed Rail Isn't a Bolshevik Plot

If you drive on the Interstate, benefit from the Voting Rights Act of 1964 or live free of polio, smallpox, and other communicable diseases, go ahead and thank the government.
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Let's face it, since in a Mouse That Roared sort of way making war and securing the peace hasn't been this country's strong suit since WW II, Big Government's strength is to be found elsewhere.

If you drive on the Interstate, benefit from the Voting Rights Act of 1964 or live free of polio, smallpox, and other communicable diseases, go ahead and thank the government. Likewise, if you enjoy living in a country that still has one of the world's highest standards of living and (as my brother-in-law likes to remind me) lets me write stuff like this without fear of going to jail, that's because Big Government still works well in more ways than the left and right often care to acknowledge.

In particular, jobs and infrastructure and government go hand in hand. And since creating jobs and building infrastructure is Big Government doing what it does best, for those who would argue otherwise, just cut it out. Hyperbole aside, building high speed rail isn't a "Bolshevik plot" and fast trains won't destroy the America we all love and defend.

That's why like Barack I'm returning to my albeit small base with this piece on infrastructure, jobs and fast trains. Next to President Obama's frontal assault at last week's State of the Union on the Supreme Court for its boneheaded decision in Citizens United (gotta love the irony in the name of that case) the news I'm crowing about is Big Government's decision to start funding the California High Speed Rail project. At least in some circles here in the once Golden State, the $2.5 billion dollar investment is helping President Hope regain the populist mantle. The project planned initially between Anaheim and San Francisco is projected to take 10 years to build at a cost of $42 billion. That's no small sum, but let's compare the return on investment with Goldman or AIG's share of the bailout. If anything is truly too big to fail my money's on the 520 miles of infrastructure that will need to be built between southern and northern California versus the still black box of Wall Street.

With unemployment in California holding steady at 12.4 percent, and gridlock on the I5 freeway between San Diego and Sacramento as miserable as ever, what better way to demonstrate to this politically divided nation that government governs best when it stimulates the economy with infrastructure investment and jobs programs that put Americans back to work.

To the handful of conservatives reading this, I hope you will read on as I try to demonstrate that government investment in high speed rail can be all things to all people. That's our tax dollars at work and that's just one of the important functions that government is here for.

What if instead of looking at the overdue California rail project and other long neglected infrastructure projects as a Big Government handout, you saw it as the juicy bone it is to California business as well as labor, environmentalists, and civic boosters. In other words, how about casting aside for a moment the intellectual dishonesty and acknowledging that infrastructure investment in high speed rail is among the best public private partnership investments of tax payer money we could all ask for. Just take a look at the private contractors lined up to complete the work. You can bet that the principals of most of these Chamber of Commerce dues paying companies hail from the country's toniest country clubs and best private schools or public districts rather than from Compton, South LA and Boyle Heights. And while some of them may say they want Scott Brown to be the country's next president, privately they know who's their sugar daddy. They know what the California High Speed Rail project and other likes it mean for the state and the region. So what's keeping you from joining the Berkeley Lalaland Axis and loving O as much as the Subaru driving same sex family with the Obamanos bumper sticker just in front of you?

Go on, take a toke and breathe in the good vibrations that come with belonging to a movement of inclusion and community rather than divisiveness and No.

Blue and white collar Americans going back to work isn't a bad thing, even if it is happening on President Obama's watch. What's more, riding as a passenger on the train instead of driving will mean traveling with comforts like wireless, so you will be able to pass the trip earbuds firmly in place working on your iPad or learning Spanish listening to a podcast on your Google Nexus phone as you speed through California's Central Valley. And while you're riding comfortably rather than feeling your blood pressure rise on the freeway, take a look out the window at the pretty blooms on the almond, citrus and pistachio trees that line the west side of the Valley. Those agricultural miracles were made possible by another massive public works project that brought water south from the Sacramento Delta hundreds of miles away.

All this sure sounds preferable to me than five hours of turning around to shush the kids as the pea soup fog envelopes the freeway between Bakersfield and Tracy. The train will finally give Californians, and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who will take it instead of driving or flying, a relatively comfortable experience that thousands of easterners, including Vice President Biden, have long known as commuters on Amtrak's only profitable route.

Gone for those who choose the train will be the painful ride on the 5 as you try to get around the SUV- or Ford F150-driving cell phone-glued to-his ear driver clogging the passing lane through Lost Hills. And as for the safety of the trip, it's worth noting that even with the train engineer texting while driving, the auto-piloted train ride will still be safer than driving a recalled Toyota Tundra with a sticky gas pedal. If I were a bitter tree hugger I'd say it serves Toyota right for building the gas guzzling truck in the first place.

What still troubles me though is the failure of the heads of the Fortune 100 firms that will benefit from projects like this to stand at the President's side when the entertainers on Fox News start whining about tax and spend Big Government. The silence is deafening and inexcusable. Opportunities for government, labor, environmentalists and the corporate generals to come together are so rare these days that business should be clambering for the place of honor next to O.

As for the charge of waste and extravagance that Fox & Friends will inevitably throw at the speeding train, I can't even remember the last time the blue color union workers who will be laying the track outside of Wasco in the Central Valley invited me to their second homes in Malibu and Edgartown. I'll have to recheck my mail.

This train of dreams matters because it puts Californians back to work while helping the US make up for decades of lost time in the move to more efficient and clean means of getting around. With the public hurt by budget-induced transit cuts statewide and expected further delays in completion of LA's Expo Line, here's a rare bit of good transportation, economic and jobs news with a real multiplier effect.

So here's what I am asking of O'Reilly, Rush and Beck, just this once, overcome your distaste and say it. "Thank you Mr. President and Congress for momentarily bridging the political divide that often separates the unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and communities as different from one another as Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose." There, that wasn't so bad.

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