Whitewater flows as damaged Oroville Dam spillway is reopened
California’s politicians from Gov. Jerry Brown down have spent much of the last two months denouncing President Donald Trump on virtually every issue.
There’s certainly much to criticize in Trump’s bizarre presidency, from building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to his personal Twitter wars with everyone who disagrees with him.
However, as they denounce Trumpism and declare California’s steadfast intention to go its own way, protecting its supposed “values” from a Republican-controlled federal government, the state’s politicians also are pleading with Trump for various kinds of financial aid.
Brown requested another “presidential major disaster declaration to aid with repairs to the damaged Oroville Dam spillway and to bolster state and local recovery efforts following February storms that caused major flooding, levee breeches, the evacuation of residents, power outages and extensive damage to rods and bridges across California.”
Brown’s request followed by days his listing 51 “critical” infrastructure projects that he’d like the Trump administration to help finance, and his complaint about the administration’s decision to hold up a $647 million grant for electrification of the CalTrain commuter rail service on the San Francisco Peninsula.
It also came a few weeks after Brown had lectured Capitol reporters on the virtues of balanced budgets, pay-as-you-go financing of public works with tax money and the downside of borrowing money.
At this juncture, one should note that the federal government lives largely on borrowed money. Its debt has doubled in the last decade, and it continues to spend about $600 billion more each year than it receives in tax revenues, or about 15 percent of its $4 trillion budget.
Given that fact of fiscal life, when Brown or other California politicians go to Washington with their hands out, they are indirectly asking the feds to borrow even more money so that California doesn’t have to go into debt or increase its own taxes.
One of the “critical” infrastructure projects Brown listed is a $75 million grant for a trolley car system linking downtown Sacramento with West Sacramento on the other side of the Sacramento River. It’s hardly “critical,” but if it’s that important to them, why can’t the local governments involved do it themselves?
The same could be said of the CalTrain electrification project that serves Silicon Valley, arguably the nation’s wealthiest region, or the Oroville spillway collapse. That was caused, it appears, by faulty engineering and/or construction and maintenance, not by the weather, and permanent repairs should be financed by state water contractors, just as they paid for the original construction through revenue bonds.
Finally, it should also be noted that Brown ran for president in 1980 as an advocate of a constitutional amendment to require the federal budget to be balanced.
That was then, apparently, and now is now.