It is difficult to imagine a state Republicans detest more than California, and the reasons are too numerous to list in one article. However, it is likely that because the Golden State is a Democratic-stronghold and environmentally conscientious, Republicans in Congress and their campaign donors have nothing but contempt for California. It was little surprise then, that Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the new House Majority Leader to use his position of power to thwart California’s environmental leadership and repay his primary campaign donors in the process.
Kevin McCarthy as House Majority Leader does not bode well for the Golden State, or the rest of the nation for that matter, but when he said the GOP was “looking for individuals who put people before politics,” he certainly was not talking about Republicans or himself. McCarthy’s assertion that as Majority Leader he will steer Republicans to address the real problem “that so many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck” warrants praise for McCarthy, as Hrafnkell Haraldsson noted yesterday, “for his acting ability, if not for honesty.”
McCarthy will hardly take any steps to help low-wage workers or create jobs nationally when he adamantly opposes a major job creation project in his home state and congressional district, and there is good reason why. McCarthy is an adamant foe of California’s high speed rail (HSR) project like his cohorts in the House because, as a typical Republican, he is beholden to the oil industry and counts among his top ten campaign contributors Chevron and Occidental Petroleum. California’s oil and gas producers are already drawing up a list of favors the new Majority Leader owes them as recompense and it includes killing jobs for Californians.
A little over a week ago, Republicans in the House passed a transportation funding bill with an amendment inserted by one of McCarthy’s oil-soaked brethren and fellow Californian Jeff Denham that declares, “none of the funds made available by this act may be used for the California High-Speed Rail Program of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.” The blunt language conforms with both Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao (R-CA) who, like Denham, are Republicans representing districts in California’s Central Valley that are still struggling with high unemployment and stand to benefit most from the high speed rail project in jobs, economic activity, and reducing carbon emissions. The HSR project also greatly improves the efficiency of transporting goods around the state because an important aspect of the high speed rail project is improving local rail lines to relieve congestion and give businesses a more efficient delivery system for their products.
Although McCarthy is an ardent foe of the job-creating bonanza in the HSR project, he comes in a close second to tea party Republican Jeff Denham who first said that instead of taxpayers funding the HSR project slated to create hundreds-of-thousands of jobs, their tax dollars would be better used “to create jobs” by giving tax cuts to “job creators.” Then Denham shifted his attack and asserted that because private businesses are better suited to build the HSR project and create jobs, taxpayer dollars should go to private enterprise. Now, with his amendment in the House transportation bill, he claimed his intent is to ensure “that Valley dollars stay in the Valley,” and that other Republicans were “working together in concert with the other concerned members from the Valley to stop this train wreck.”
The board chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard, said “I think it’s unfortunate, because it continues the politicization of transportation policy. We go through this every year with these guys.” Richard emphasized that killing the California high-speed rail program would wipe out contracts that include a number serving veterans and decimates the prospect of creating well over half-a-million new jobs; permanent well-paying jobs. The rail authority cited there are already 71 private companies working on the rail project that have offices in the Central Valley that both Denham and McCarthy represent, and all 71 of those companies are private employers of thousands of Californians that belies Denham’s claim that the HSR project is not keeping Valley dollars in the Valley, or that private businesses have been left out of the project.
California’s Republican state legislators hate the HSR project as much as congressional Republicans because according to Senate GOP leader Bob Huff, it fails to address any of the long-term pension problems and is a policy that “makes California unnecessarily expensive, drive people into poverty, and then propose new government programs to subsidize their life in poverty.” It is beyond any reasonable person’s comprehension how creating hundreds-of-thousands of well-paying permanent jobs is remotely related to “pension problems,” or “drives people into poverty,” but Republicans are notorious for spouting any nonsense to support their job-killing agenda.
Despite the recent vote forbidding any transportation dollars going to the HSR project, the Rail Authority’s Richard dismisses the vote as largely symbolic; particularly since California is not requesting any funding right now. He said he understands why some in Congress voted to withhold funding for the HSR project because “people in tight races don’t want to be subject to some kind of hit piece over a vote that really had no import whatsoever,” but neither Denham nor McCarthy voted to deny HSR funding for any other reason than their allegiance to the oil industry.
The oil industry, and more importantly the Koch brothers, oppose California’s high speed rail project because it reduces carbon emissions, reduces the effects of climate change, and reduces California’s dependence on dirty energy for transportation. In fact, environmentalists support the HSR project because it “continues California’s leadership in the fight against climate change and invests in cleaning up the single-biggest source of carbon pollution in California – transportation” according to the California advocacy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ann Notthoff. Despite Republican, Koch brother, and oil industry opposition to the HSR project, Californians support the project overwhelmingly according to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute that found over 60% of California voters say high speed rail is very important to the state’s economy and quality of life.
In what was once a normal political environment, a congressional leader from one’s home state would be welcomed news, but Republican politics have not been normal for over five years. Instead of creating even one job, Republicans have used any means necessary to kill jobs and now that McCarthy is replacing job-killer Cantor, before he is officially House Majority Leader he sent a message to his own state, congressional district, and constituents that they will be recipients of his leadership in killing hundreds-of-thousands of jobs with valuable assistance from other California Republicans in Congress.