The pride of Wisconsin, governor-elect Scott Walker, is crowing over the withdrawal of $810 million from Wisconsin. The money was granted to Wisconsin for the building of a Milwaukee to Madison high speed railway, as part of a long term regional plan to link Chicago to Minneapolis by high speed rail.
Whatever one thinks about high speed rail, one thing that cannot be considered good for Wisconsin is the withdrawal of federal dollars, period. The money is destined to be spent somewhere. There is no chance of it being "returned" to the government for deficit reduction, as some of the more delusional Tea Partiers would like to believe. (Believing that less than a billion dollars would do anything to ease a deficit that hums to the tune of a $3 trillion Iraq-Afghanistan bill is a separate delusion altogether.)
Unlike defense contracting and university-based research, both of which bring taxpayer funds to fixed locations where the facilities are already clustered, and unlike the extremely dispersed redistributions of Social Security, the rail spending wil inject a large amount of money into places that normally offer little reason to attract concentrated federal funds. In other words, these are the places populated by the people that, simply by the luck of where they live, are typically getting hosed in the taxes-out, taxes-in game. People in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, for example, most likely pay out more in federal taxes than they get back in federal spending. The rail project would have been a nice return on decades of taxation for the LaCrosse area. But it won't happen now.
Scott Walker, we can reasonably conclude, is committed to income redistribution on a grand scale. In this case, from the Midwest to California.
Go ahead and brag, Mr. Walker. We are keeping score.