by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the Daily Sentinel
Advertising experts say fewer words are often more effective than lengthy descriptions. Some of the most famous ad campaigns have featured short slogans, such as “Got Milk?,” “King of Beers,” “Breakfast of Champions,” “Have it Your Way,” and even the single word “Uncola.” One of the most famous was the 1984 Wendy’s campaign featuring Clara Peller, an old lady demanding more from fast-food chains with the catch phrase, “Where’s the Beef?” Thirty-four years later, the phrase is still commonly used to question the veracity of almost any claim.
It is being asked regularly in California these days about the promised high-speed rail system. That state’s voters approved a measure in 2008 calling for a 200 mile-per-hour bullet train connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco. The understanding was that a third of the money would come from state bonds, a third from the federal government, and a third from the private sector. The total cost was to be about $35 billion. Voters authorized $9 billion in state bonds, and the federal government kicked in the first $3 billion of its share from Obama “stimulus funds.” The federal government eventually bailed on its remaining share of the project, leaving the state on its own, and there has been virtually no private sector money. So in 2014, the additional share was committed from a state environmental program, which generates revenue by auctioning off air pollution permits. The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), in charge of building and operating the system, has already burned through at least $2.5 billion of the money. It has a website with information in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, and Armenian, but there is no train.