The Runaway Stimulus Train

The incoming Republican governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, John Kasich and Scott Walker, decided to refuse a billion dollars’ worth of “stimulus” money from the federal government, which had been earmarked for developing high-speed rail.  As Kasich explained to Fox News, the rail line was estimated to cost $29 million to operate, while it would generate only $12 million in ticket sales, leaving Ohio taxpayers $17 million in the hole.  “It’s going to lose money, so we’d have to put millions of dollars into subsidizing the operation, and that’s not what we really need in Ohio,” said Kasich.

For his part, Walker thought Wisconsin could use the money to address its aging roads and bridges, but didn’t need a railroad boondoggle that would up costing the state $7 to $15 million to subsidize.  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said no dice: “None of those funds may be used for anything other than our high-speed rail program.”  Instead, the feds will divert the unwanted stimulus money to California, which has absolutely no problem with building expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers.

The L.A. Times reported these developments in a remarkably snotty editorial, which basically makes fun of Ohio and Wisconsin as suckers for foolishly handing their “free money” over to a voracious Golden State.  Yes, they actually do call it “free money”:

“Outraged by excessive stimulus spending? Worried that construction of new infrastructure in your state will create operating costs lasting well into the future? If you’re a Republican governor with such troubles on your mind, we have the solution: Send the federal money to California. The Golden State is more than willing to relieve you of the burden of all that free cash.”

The L.A. Times didn’t think much of Kasich and Walker’s reasons for shipping their mana from heaven off to the basket case of the Pacific, sneering that train supporters say “this is sort of like turning down a free car because you don’t want to have to pay for gasoline and insurance.”  No, it’s sort of like turning down a car stolen from other people because you’re broke, you don’t need it, and you don’t want to drop a $17 million gas bill on your family.

According to the Times editors, Kasich and Walker foolishly ignored the “construction jobs the projects would have created,” as well as the “positive impact on their states’ economies, freeways, and environment that the trains would have brought to future generations.”  You mean the future generations saddled with paying for the damned things?  Do you suppose we could wait for the future generations to be born, so we could ask what they want, before we spend them into penury? 

As for “jobs the projects would have created,” one of the reasons our economy has slid into the toilet under liberal control is their belief jobs can be created by throwing piles of money at holes in the ground.  Healthy job creation is a response to demand.  A heavily subsidized rail system is not a response to demand.  That billion dollars of stimulus money was extracted from the future through deficit spending, and thrown at states who don’t need it, based on the judgment of out-of-touch bureaucrats who think passenger rail systems are the ultimate expression of human industry.

The current theatrical film Unstoppable is about heroic efforts to stop a runaway train.  The runaway spending train will only stop when sane and sensible people stop lining up to receive their “free money,” and we stop allowing the federal government to provide it.  There won’t be much “outside the box” thinking with arrogant liberals prowling the edge of the box, ready to pick the pockets of everyone who tries to escape, and laughing at them for making the attempt.