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The increasingly delusional nature of the state’s politics is best captured by the urgent political push to build a fantastically expensive—potentially costing as much as $100 billion—high-speed rail line that would eventually connect the Bay Area, Los Angeles and the largely rural places in between. Obama has aggressively promoted high-speed rail nationally, but has been pushed back by mounting Republican opposition. Yet in one-party California, Jerry Brown mindlessly pushes the project despite the state’s huge structural deficits, soaring pension obligations, and decaying general infrastructure. He’s continued doing so even as the plan loses support among the beleaguered California electorate.
It’s hard to see how these policies, coupled with a massive income tax increase on the so-called rich (families, as well as many small businesses, making over $250,000), can do anything other than widen the state’s already gaping class divide. Yet given the power of Californian ideas over Obama, one can expect more such policies from him in an electorally unencumbered second term. California’s slow-motion tragedy could end up as a national one.