You know professional politicians are in big trouble when mainstream daily journalists openly mock them.
Take the case of veteran KCBS/KCAL television reporter Dave Lopez, who late last week reported Gov. Jerry Brown's press conference to celebrate California's new costly, controversial high-speed rail project.
"We need trains just like Europe, just like China, just like Japan," Brown told Lopez. "This is the future. Fearful men stand aside! We're going forward."
So far, so good for the state's top political bigwig after expertly delivering the Nicholas Pileggi-style line.
But Lopez then weighed in with an observation: The governor "brushed off concerns about massive cost overruns already for this project."
The next shot in the story showed Brown saying the project will cost $10 billion.
"That's not a problem," the governor said, apparently ignorant that the razor-like Lopez guillotine was about to fall on his neck. "Believe me. We got it."
A solemn Lopez then stated, "But hold the phone for just a moment if you will. With the governor asking for a tax increase in November and saying that without it the school systems throughout the state will have dramatic cuts, why would you want to spend an initial $5 billion and then an additional $9 billion from the federal government on a high-speed rail system? Why not take that money and use it for education?"
For an answer to his question, Lopez turned to state Assemblyman Kevin de Leon, a Democrat who said it would be illegal to transfer the transportation funds to education.
"We would do it in a heartbeat but the reality is we can't," explained de Leon.
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A shoulder-shrugging Lopez, who is now based in LA but spent decades breaking stories in Orange County, wrapped up the report by repeating Brown's supercilious boast that money is no problem when it comes to the government's high-speed rail hopes.
California has an ugly history on transportation spending predictions. For example, officials in both major political parties and so-called business experts claimed that OC's San Joaquin Hills Toll Road would cost $900 million, reduce traffic and generate huge profits for Wall Street. Sixteen years later, the publicly-subsidized, semi-private road increased traffic congestion by spurring new residential housing developments and is constantly on the verge of taxpayer-responsible bankruptcy. Current cost of the road? More than $15 billion (and climbing each day).