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Reason Alert: Florida Rail Canceled, Wisconsin Budget Crisis

State pension disasters looming and reviews of the upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie

March 4, 2011

 - Florida High-Speed Rail Project Canceled

- Wisconsin-Type Budget Fights Are Coming to Your State

- President Obama Used to Be Right on the Debt Ceiling

- Watch Matt Welch on Fox News Channel, Fox Business

- John Stossel Talks About Overcoming His Stutter

- Charlie Sheen Isn't Winning

- New at Reason  

Florida High-Speed Rail Project Canceled
This morning the Florida Supreme Court ruled Gov. Rick Scott does not have to accept $2.4 billion in funding for the proposed Orlando-to-Tampa high-speed rail system and Scott promptly turned down the money, again. Reason Foundation's Robert Poole writes: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott made the right decision in once again (and for the final time, hopefully) turning down $2.4 billion in federal funding for the proposed Orlando-to-Tampa rail line. The line could have cost Floridians up to $3 billion more than advertised, since there is good evidence the cost estimate was low-balled. And it would have required ongoing operating subsidies because it didn't meet even the basic criteria for a successful high-speed rail line. Yes, Orlando is a major tourist attraction. But Tampa and Orlando are highly spread-out cities and don't have large central business districts that the majority of people seek to reach. The route scored at the bottom of American high-speed rail possibilities in terms of ridership potential. At 84 miles, the system was too short, and the medium-speed train was going to be too slow, to compete with the convenience of car travel. And, of course, the system couldn't hope to attract people away from flying, because people simply don't fly between Tampa and Orlando. Gov. Scott made the right call. The bad news: It doesn't look like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is learning anything. He's promising to simply divert the $2.4 billion in taxpayer money to other states' rail projects. If the Obama administration is serious about rebuilding the nation's infrastructure they should stop pushing shiny, medium-speed trains and shift the funding to cost-effective transportation projects that will move goods and people-as Gov. Scott requested. The nation needs plenty of infrastructure upgrades. And the most needed infrastructure projects will all demonstrate high benefit-cost ratios that will either interest the private sector in building them or make them self-supporting via user fees. High-speed trains aren't needed and aren't cost-effective. A serious Transportation Secretary would focus on getting people and goods moving, not ribbon-cutting ceremonies for medium-speed trains."
Poole: LaHood Begs Florida to Take $2.4 Billion of Your Money
Reason's January Study: Florida Rail Plan Could Cost $3 Billion More than Expected
Poole: Surface Transportation Newsletter on Federal Infrastructure Spending
Wisconsin-Type Budget Fights Are Coming to Your State
Thousands of angry union members and special interest groups have descended on state capitals to fight against reducing pay and benefits for public employees. The protesters are up against a new crop of governors looking for spending cuts to deal with budget deficits that may rise to a combined $125 billion in the next fiscal year.  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking public employees to pay $500 million towards benefits they're currently receiving for free. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is proposing public employees pay 30 percent of their health care premiums. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants public employees to pay at least 13 percent of their health care premiums. And he wants state workers to start contributing to their retirements for the first time. This newfound fiscal discipline comes after a virtually unchecked spending binge over the past 10 years during which state expenditures exploded by more than 80 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, including big bumps in overall worker compensation. Hear Governors Cuomo, Walker and Christie talk about state budget woes in this Foundation video narrated by Editor Nick Gillespie.
Shikha Dalmia in The Daily: The Lesson Wisconsin Unions are Learning
Video: Comparing Public and Private School Teacher Pay
From the Reason Archives
Cover Story: Class War: How Public Servants Became Our Masters
Comparing Private Sector and Government Worker Salaries
State Budget Reform Toolkit Cover Story: How Public Pensions Killed Progressive California
How to Fix California's Pension Crisis
2005 Study: The Gathering Pension Storm and Strategies for Reform
More of Reason's Long-Standing Coverage of State Budget Deficits, the Pension Crisis and Public Sector Unions
President Obama Used to Be Right on the Debt Ceiling
In the Washington Times, Reason magazine Columnist Veronique de Rugy and Jason Fichtner, former chief economist of the Social Security Administration, write: "in the 1980s, both political parties figured out they could spend more by simply voting to raise the limit. In the past 10 years alone, Congress has raised the debt limit 10 times. So what happens if the government doesn't raise the debt ceiling? While it is true Congress has never before refused to raise the debt ceiling, it has frequently taken its sweet time to do so. In 1985, Congress waited nearly three months after the debt limit was reached before authorizing a permanent increase. In 1995, 4 1/2 months passed between hitting the ceiling and congressional action. And in 2002, Congress delayed raising the debt ceiling for three months. In each case, the U.S. and the economy survived...As the national debt and entitlements eat up an increasingly large share of the budget pie, those on the left who want to protect government funding for other programs they view as vital should see the urgency in paying down the debt.'The fact that we're here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,' then-Sen. Barack Obama said in 2006. 'Leadership means the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.' Mr. Obama had it right back then."
Video: Raising the Debt Limit: It Just Makes Sense. Not.
Stop Crying and Start Cutting
Watch Matt Welch on Fox News Channel, Fox Business
Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch will discuss government spending and entitlement cuts on Judge Andrew Napolitano's "Freedom Watch" tonight on Fox Business at 8 pm and 11 pm Eastern, and on Fox News Channel at 9 pm Eastern on Sunday.
Video: Peter Suderman Discusses the Fed and Debt on Freedom Watch

John Stossel Talks About Overcoming His Stutter
At, Fox Business Anchor John Stossel writes: "Because The King's Speech, a movie about King George's effort to overcome stuttering, won the Oscar for best picture, reporters have been interviewing me about my stuttering.Some ask why they don't hear me stutter on TV. Others wonder why a stutterer is on TV in the first place. Here's my explanation. Since I was a child, my stuttering has come and gone. Sometimes I was sure the problem had disappeared-then it would return with such a vengeance I'd fear saying anything. I'd stay silent in class. I avoided parties. When I was old enough to date, sometimes I'd telephone a girl and try to speak, but nothing would come out. I'd just hang up. Now, because of caller ID, stutterers can't do that.I never planned on a career in TV."
Charlie Sheen Isn't Winning Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie: "...while [Charlie] Sheen may refuse to talk the psycho-lingo of the stars, he's playing out another equally tired script, that of self-destructing movie or TV or political celeb, which is equally clichéd and equally tiresome. His forays into 9/11 trutherism, attacks on the creators of the sitcom that made him the highest-paid high-school dropout on TV, and possession of 'tiger blood and Adonis DNA' are tedious in more than 30-second bursts. More disturbingly, his ability to avoid the sorts of regular-joe penalties for violent threats and actions is, alas, nothing new in a criminal justice system that enforces different codes of behavior for Sheens and the rest of us. I do think the celebrities exist to provide entertainment for us, the paying and free-riding audience. And in his latest incarnation, Sheen is delivering far more than he did on Spin City or Two And a Half Men. But he's hardly a hero, even if he refuses to submit to the culture-of-therapy couch (a step up for actors from the casting couch). I suspect that one way or another he's going to disappoint us all by becoming even less interesting as a person than he had become as an actor."
New at Reason    
Atlas Shrugged Movie Reviews Are Coming In: "spectacularly good" or "incomprehensible gibberish"?
Kurt Loder Reviews The Adjustment Bureau
It Is Time for NPR's Subsidies to End
Jacob Sullum: Gov. Mitch Daniels' Pot Luck
Shikha Dalmia: President Obama's Green Energy Boondoggles and Global Warming Compton Parents Take on the Public School System
President Obama's Decision to Stop Defending the Defense of Marriage Act
Center for American Progress and New Republic Endorse Totally Private BaileyCare Plan
Health Care Bill's Unreasonable Insurance Regulations
Whoops! Medicare Makes $48 Billion in "Improper" Payments
Will the Recent Uprisings Succeed?
Video:'s Nanny of the Month Is Sen. Harry Reid

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