I have some scary numbers on the cost of high-speed rail in California on the home page. There are more blood-curdling tales out this week from my second-favorite bastion of state capitalism, China, which is currently embroiled in a massive scandal over HSR. According to Asia Times, “Details of the case are shocking the public. Zhang [Shuguang, a key official in the program] reportedly has US$2.8 billion stashed away in Swiss and US bank accounts, wealth rivaling that of a small country. This despite his status as a prefecture-level official, with a monthly salary of just 8,000 yuan (US$1,220).” If true, that’s one percent of the cost of the $300 billion program going to a single official.
I have to say, the way the Chinese are conducting audits is pretty cool: Working under the long-standing rule that corrupt politicos ship their families and cash out of the country in case the sky falls on them, they’re requiring party officials who are spending big bucks to account for the whereabouts of wives and children.