I can’t be certain, but urban legend has it that the whole every-kid-gets-a-trophy concept was born somewhere on a soccer field on the West side of L.A.  The People’s Republic of Santa Monica, to be exact.

Now, Sacramento politicians and bureaucrats are adopting the model for California’s infamous $100 billion high-speed rail boondoggle.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported yesterday that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is giving away $2 Million of your tax dollars to each losing bidder who has submitted a proposal to build the State project. That’s right, $2 Million each to the losers.

The U~T’s watchdog reporter Christopher Cadelago reports that while four construction firms will fail to win a $1.8 Billion design bid to be awarded this June, they will each be awarded a “stipend” – reportedly an “obscure practice used for some large-scale construction projects.”

But in California, is this practice really all that obscure?

After all, we are the home to Solyndra – the California company that received $500 million in taxpayer funds, including $25 million in California tax dollars before going out of business. A classic case in which the vendor didn’t have to perform much work before they hit pay dirt.

To be fair, defenders of the practice suggest that the stipends are a necessary part of doing business with governmental agencies on large-scale projects and that the practice actually forces vendors to sharpen their pencils to provide a better proposal in hopes of winning the project. But isn’t a shot at winning a nearly $2 Billion project enough to draw the best and the brightest in the business? I’ve bid on much smaller contracts in my day and I have to admit my pencil was pretty sharp, because I wanted the contract. I could taste it.

We have truly lost our way when the intrinsic value of doing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay just isn’t good enough. What’s worse, we’re sending our children a message that contributing our talents for the greater public good to a massive State project isn’t an important enough virtue in itself.

But come this June, the State will go about issuing checks totaling $8 Million to ensure that nobody’s feelings get hurt and that nobody spent time playing a game they didn’t win – can you even imagine the Super Bowl offering a prize to both the winners and losers? Never.  But the payouts will occur around the exact time the Legislature will kick the ball down the field while dodging our perennial summertime budget mess.

From Santa Monica to Sacramento, Californians ought to expect better from their government. After all, it’s our money… we’re paying for it. Instead, I fear that we’re all stuck on this gravy train. But at least we’re in it together, and all getting shiny new trophies. All aboard…