Rice payments and high-speed rail

For Doug LaMalfa it’s OK to subsidize rice growing but not a high-speed train system

The author is an emeritus professor of foreign language and literature at Chico State University.

It is a well-known fact in the North State that the American government gives farm subsidies to growers of a variety of crops. Farmers take advantage of governmental support because it is good business: It keeps farmers on the land, contains prices and allows farmers to be competitive. Ultimately, farm subsidies are an investment in the future of California, and in the long run they should result in saving, not wasting, public money.

Based on the above practice, it is difficult to understand the hostile crusade of Sen. Doug LaMalfa against what is, potentially, the best investment of federal and state funds for the good of all Californians—namely, a clean, modern, efficient network of high-speed trains that ranks in vision and future economic benefit with our system of higher education, freeways, Bay Area bridges and the California Water Project that has made California’s agriculture No. 1 in the world.

Sen. LaMalfa, a rice farmer, receives generous agricultural subsidies from Washington.

If the senator and his fellow crusaders want a comparative visualization of a successful high-speed-train network, Italy is an appropriate example. Like California, Italy has a vertical north-south configuration, with mountains and valleys, big cities in the north (Milan, Turin, Genoa, Bologna and Florence) and big cities in the south (Rome and Naples). Italy and California are roughly equivalent surface-wise. Italy has 59 million people. California is approaching 40 million and growing fast. Italy’s GDP ranks eighth in the world; California has the eighth largest economy on the planet.

Holding American and Italian citizenships, I know both countries equally well. When traveling in Italy, I regularly purchase Eurostar train tickets. The Eurostar cuts travel time in half vis-à-vis other trains and is three times faster than car travel. The Eurostar is environmentally clean, safe, comfortable and affordable. One can work and conduct business on a Eurostar, but not while driving a car.

The senator needs to school himself in economic and political coherence with the long-term interests of all Californians where public money is concerned. When the greater public good is at stake, being conservative may sometimes be a virtue; however, being self-serving and retrograde is always a vice. Any support given to his myopic ballot initiative to derail high-speed trains and the will of the people of California is a vote against the future of the Golden State.