The White House announced earlier this month multi-billion dollar spending on a high-speed rail system for the nation. But President Joe Biden has already participated in a project with this exact promise – without delivering results. Indeed, some of the Barack Obama-Biden rail projects have been abandoned; most have run over projected costs.
Biden calls his Investing in America agenda a “key pillar of Bidenomics.” A White House press release proclaimed his plan “is delivering world class-infrastructure across the country.” These promises have been made for a long time, yet the vaunted infrastructure has not been delivered. Ironically, the POTUS who attacks fossil fuel pipelines is replacing them with one full of taxpayer pork to California and other states that have a proven track record of not installing a single stretch of functioning high-speed tracks: “The Biden-Harris Administration is building out a pipeline of passenger rail projects in every region of the country in order to achieve the President’s vision of world-class passenger rail.”
The Obama-Biden Legacy
Blending pledges of environmental rescue, reduced traffic congestion, and “good-paying union jobs,” Biden is simply echoing the empty playbook of his former boss. After “investing” billions of taxpayer dollars in high-speed rail 14 years ago, Obama committed to the very same thing. Expressing his spending plans, the 44th president announced:
“And so far, we’re ahead of schedule, we’re under budget, and adhering to the highest standards of transparency and accountability …
“What we’re talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America … And with this strategy for America’s transportation future, and our efforts across all fronts to lay a new foundation for our lasting prosperity, that is the challenge we will meet.”
Standing beside Obama was then-VP Biden, touting his passion for this rail-vision thing:
“I have, like many in this room, devoted most of my career to doing what I can to support America’s rail systems. So I’m really proud to be part of an administration led by a man who has real vision; real vision about how to not only transform this country generally, but transform our transportation system in a fundamental way.”
A High-Speed Train Wreck
The vision is dystopian: sap the taxpayers and drive up debt to fund fantasies that generate short-term wealth for technocrats and no demonstrable results. Obama claimed his administration’s progress was ahead of schedule, under budget, and held to high standards. All three claims have now been debunked.
Back in 2014, Time magazine noted that “the bullet-train rhetoric from Obama and the White House’s main train buff, Vice President Joe Biden, has not lived up to the bullet-train reality.” With the benefit of hindsight, Fox News described the results of this decades-long debacle:
“The project was originally planned as a $33 billion project consisting of 1,955 miles of railway connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. Since then, the cost has swelled to $113 billion and the project’s scope has been dramatically scaled down to a 171-mile railway … Overall, if the project is completed in 2030, it will have taken a decade longer than expected, while costing $80 billion more and being 91% smaller than originally planned. Because of its repeated shortfalls, the project has been dubbed by critics as the ‘train to nowhere.’”
In 2009, Obama claimed that 220-mile-per-hour trains would decrease gasoline use, create high-paying jobs, and improve the economy by modernizing the nation’s infrastructure. Billions of dollars and nearly 15 years later, Biden is repeating the same script, line by line.
Can Biden Grease the Tracks?
Watch-the-birdie visions of sugar-plum super-trains that benefit commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco do not eclipse the endless debt incurred for do-nothing pork projects. When Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) was governor of Florida, he famously returned $2.4 billion of slotted high-speed train funds back to Washington. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) eagerly drooled over the new federal handout as “a vote of confidence in today’s vision,” claiming, “California is delivering on the first 220-mph, electric high-speed rail project in the nation.”
“Today’s vision” is simply Obama 2009 redux; the high-speed train has never left the station. Biden’s 2023 pitch is déjà vu, except voters see in their rearview mirror zero progress despite soaring promises (and deficits).
The Biden administration’s policies have been an economic train wreck, seeding inflation, volatile energy markets, and government waste. Shifting billions of dollars to Newsom’s visionary train coffers while that state tackles its $68 billion budget deficit may surface as an issue for the nation’s voters in 2024.