The brand new governors-elect of Ohio and Wisconsin have fulfilled a campaign pledge before they've even been sworn into office: No high-speed rail. Ohio's John Kasich and Wisconsin's Scott Walker both pledged they would block the rail projects that $1.2 billion in stimulus money was meant to fund. On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told them this: Fine, then your states won't get the rail money at all.
Instead, the cash will go to 14 more cooperative states, with Florida and California getting the biggest chunks of the Midwesterners' money, The Wall Street Journal's Amy Merrick reports.
- High-Speed Rail Victim of Culture Wars, The Economist writes. High-speed rail is
supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans with little reference to the specifics of any given project. The left views it as a near-perfect form of stimulus: creating 'unoutsourceable' jobs; reducing congestion; making life easier for business; trimming carbon emissions and laying the foundations for a bigger and thus even more beneficial train network to come. Republicans, meanwhile, consider high-speed rail the physical embodiment of runaway spending, imposed from Washington by an out-of-touch elite despite its whiff of European socialism.
- Blame the Stimulus, Time's Michael Grunwald writes. "High-speed rail never used to be a partisan issue, but its inclusion in Obama's controversial stimulus package has made it a kind of proxy issue."
- They Had It Coming, Kay writes at Balloon Juice. "Elections have consequences, and the consequences should be swift and unambiguous," Kay says. "I spoke to an honest Republican the other day. He knows I'm a Democrat. He drives a gravel truck. He leaned in and told me in a sort of conspiratorial, just-between-you-and-me manner that he would have been out of work the last two years without stimulus-funded road projects in this county and the three surrounding counties."
- Use OH, WI Money to Pay Down the Debt, Ann Althouse argues. "Did it not occur to them to not spend the money? Why the insatiable urge to spend? My mother used to say, 'That money is burning a hole in your pocket.' But that can't be what's going on here, because they don't have any money." Althouse notes that Ohio and Wisconsin are important swing states for 2012.
- Paying More for Less "So think about it from the perspective of the governments of Ohio and Wisconsin," Aaron Worthing writes at Patterico's Pontifications. "Your citizens are still being taxed. The deficit has gone up as a result of the spending. But you are getting none of the benefit. Am I the only person who thinks that this was designed to incentivize this project? 'We might as well take the money, because if we don’t someone else will.'"
- The Trains Wouldn't Even Have Been Fast, Randal O'Toole says at Cato.
The Ohio and Wisconsin projects aren't even worthy of being called high-speed rail, as Wisconsin's average speed was projected to be just 59 mph and Ohio's an even more lethargic 38.5 mph. ... New transportation technologies are successful when they are faster, more convenient, and less expensive than the technologies they replace. High-speed rail is slower than flying, less convenient than driving, and at least five times more expensive than either one. It is only feasible with heavy taxpayer subsidies and even then it will only serve a tiny portion of the nation's population.