Gov. Lex Luthor Will Find a Reason to Keep SunRail/CSX

Rick Scott Head Shot

Florida Governor Lex Luthor Rick Scott

I think, generally, that creating and developing a publicly-owned rail line in the middle of I-4 makes a lot of sense, considering the likelihood of ever more expensive gasoline in the years to come. To me, the greatest value has always lain in creating the base of a public system not dependent on CSX property. I also think arguments over the bang-for-buck that HSR can provide for transit and environmental purposes are legitimate arguments. I support the construction of the line, and I think it might put some people to work. But people who consider it too expensive and unnecessary aren’t crazy.

What’s indisputable is that any governor who cuts a project designed primarily to serve the public, which is almost entirely paid for by the federal government, should also do whatever he can to scrap the CSX/SunRail deal, which requires $700 or so million from the state for construction and massive CSX payoff, ongoing operations money, and untold new taxes in the Orlando area.

As the St. Pete Times put it in its HSR denial story:

But the state has more obligation for the SunRail project, a $1.2 billion Central Florida passenger line. Scott recently put a hold on $235 million in SunRail contracts, but said today that he is “still reviewing” that project.

How many of you Tea Party folks actually think Gov. Medicare Fraud is actually going to halt CSX/SunRail?

Well, consider this: On Tuesday, the governor hired CSX’s former general counsel as his own general counsel.

Look, if there’s one thing Lex Luthor* has been about in his business and government life, it’s finding ways to get tax money into private corporations’ hands.

He killed HSR because it had actual public benefit in mind, rather than straight corporate benefit. Doing that makes liberals and Democrats mad. Making liberals and Democrats mad and transferring as much public wealth to private hands as possible is the entire conservative platform. Thus, the fact that the CSX plan is a massive freight deal–the state-funded implementation of CSX’s business plan disguised as worthless suburban passenger rail plan–appeals to Scott. I promise you. I predict he and J.D. will eventually get along quite well. Similar sensibilities.

I want to thank you delusional, Tea Party old people and “conservatives” who voted for this guy. He’s gonna entertain the hell out of me for four years. And I suspect he will provide you a taste of the reality of what you think you believe. Keep telling yourself: “This is what I wanted. This is what I wanted.”

*Can’t take credit for this. Saw it first with the blogger Atrios. But it fits wonderfully.

20 thoughts on “Gov. Lex Luthor Will Find a Reason to Keep SunRail/CSX

  1. It seems so short sited to nix the HSR. Unfortunatly we seem to only be able to think 1 year out maybe 2 years out. Look 20 years out or 40 years out and what would have more impact than an accessable green way to traverse the state quickly. What will provide more immediate jobs than a building infrastructure of this magnatude. I look back at the 30’s, what pulled us out of the depression and got our economic engine turning again? Large public Work programs, the New Deal. I dont see that tax cuts are going to herald the Next Big Economic Boom.

    Thanks Billy Your perspective always gives me hope.

    • Actually, taking nothing from the New Deal, the thing that really pulled us out of the Great Depression was WWII. Of course that involved huge amounts of government spending and debt far beyond what even the New Dealers were willing to invest. Let’s hope we figure a better way out this time that doesn’t require WWIII.

    • Ryan, if you are able to find hope in my rather bleak view of human nature, I am gratified. That wasn’t exactly the response I expected, but I’ll take it. :)

  2. Surprise a surface level opinion especially from someone who is always complaining that people should step up and argue against things the public supports.

    Couple of opinions presented:
    1. He rejected the money because HSR is public project vs private. Sure you threw out a nice assumption but no factual support.
    2. He doesn’t truly support HSR because he doesn’t like where the money came from. Again large assumptions with no evidence support that point of view.

    Before I go further let me state this is opinion, just like this opinion piece, since neither are supported by any fact just hypotheses.

    Maybe he didn’t feel this is the time. That while the Federal Government was offering some funding (substantial or not) it did free our state from having to contribute dollars that we don’t currently have.

    Maybe he is / was trying be what the people that voted him in wanted him to be, fiscally responsible with their money. We know that is a foreign concept , no matter the party in power, and it is often espoused the Republicans will never cut things that affect them or their constituency. Well doesn’t seem like his decision was the one a lot of Republicans were interested in except if they consider the “big” picture.

    Of course, we know the government will just ship “their”* money to other states that are happy to take it even to the detriment to other states and that is disappointing. At any rate, thanks for the enjoyable opinion piece.

    * Their money is only referring to the idea that the government actually has money, because the government isn’t able to generate money only take the peoples’ or print it.

    • Ok, all of that’s fine. The point I was trying to make, pretty clearly I thought because it’s in the title, was that if all of what you say is true about Scott’s motivations, he should certainly cancel the Sunrail/CSX deal, which has all the problems you mentioned above, but much, much, moreso.

      Not sure if you’re a local or not, but this is a big issue for us here. But I was saying why I don’t think Scott will cancel Sunrail/CSX. If he does cancel it, I will take back what I said about him. Really, I will. If he doesn’t, I think I have a pretty strong argument.

      In whatever event, you weren’t reading the full-throated defense of HSR that you seem to think you reading.

  3. The benefit of a high speed rail system is greatly appreciated in European countries, such as United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany because of its congested highways and high gas prices and it’s funding came from the the government. It’s about connectivity and quality of life. In short term it would create jobs with its rail construction that will stimulate the economy and certainly help the housing crisis in Polk County. While everyone understands the price tag is steep and both sides of the high speed rail debate have worthwhile points, however, to me the benefits would far outweigh the risk as I look at the big picture – the infrastructure – 20 or 40 years from now.

    With the history of on and off high speed rail, was it doomed?
    Is America ready for high speed rail because we are so ready to jump in our cars and drive?
    Is the economy to blame?

  4. Oh Margie:

    There is nothing more tiresome than someone who tries to play professor without any real knowledge.

    Very briefly, the national unemployment rate in 1929, the year of Depression onset was 3.5 percent. The very “pro-business”, anti-intervention Republican Herbert Hoover was president. He did essentially all the things today’s conservatives say to do during a serious economic–essentially nothing. Unemployment went from 3 percent to 25 percent by 1932.

    FDR was elected in 1932, brought in the New Deal in 33, and unemployment fell to 13.8 percent by 1937. Then, under pressure from people like you, FDR pulled back on public spending. And unemployment rose to 16.5 percent by 1938. It had fallen to 13.9 percent by 1940.

    All in all, which had a better record, Margie? FDR’s New Deal or Hoover’s conservatism? I want you to answer.

    Additionally, there were eight recessions in the 27 years between 1902 and the Crash of 1929. Four of them lasted longer than the longest of the 10 recessions in the 65 years since World War II ended. Is eight longer recessions in the 27 years of conservative, pre FDR heyday, better than 10 shorter, shallower recessions in post FDR America? That’s one (worse) recession every 3.3 years versus one milder recession every 6.5 years? Which is worse? I want an answer here, too.

    Don’t come in here bullying a commenter with smug, uninformed, data-free Rush-speak. If you want an economic argument, make it with numbers and information, not bumper stickers.

  5. “How many of you Tea Party folks actually think Gov. Medicare Fraud is actually going to halt CSX/SunRail?”

    To answer your question, it appears that if he is genuinely concerned for the Florida taxpayer, he will. $700,000,000 cost is huge – not to mention the liability issue Floridians will always be responsible for.
    In reality, his ties to CSX may too great.

  6. You may wish it were that way but I don’t belive you’ll be able to find the facts to support it. Nothing solved the depression by itself and none of the initiatives tried was perfect. But I believe you’re wrong side of the overwhelming body of evidence.

  7. You will notice, everyone, that none of these libertarian trolls actually address the numbers or questions I asked. And Margie, of course, is hiding.

  8. No “essentially nothing” is modifier designed to account in a truncated speace for the tiny little public-private stimulus he did for show at the start of his term. About $500 M if I remember right. $20 B in today’s money. And it refers the much bigger stimulus at the very, very end, which FDR expanded on through the New Deal. And all “volunteer” efforts aimed at cajoling business unsuccessfully.

    But is it really your position that Hoover was more of a New Deal keynesian than FDR?

    And is it really so hard to answer this question:

    There were eight recessions in the 27 years between 1902 and the Crash of 1929. Four of them lasted longer than the longest of the 10 recessions in the 65 years since World War II ended. Is eight longer recessions in the 27 years of conservative, pre FDR heyday, better than 10 shorter, shallower recessions in post FDR America? That’s one (worse) recession every 3.3 years versus one milder recession every 6.5 years? Which is worse?

    Because all of you are totally ducking it. So by all means continue to lecture me about “articles of faith” from an intellectual cowardice so deep that you can’t even answer a simple question about very specific numbers.

  9. You are a very dense person.

    I actually wrote: “I support the construction of the line, and I think it might put some people to work. But people who consider it too expensive and unnecessary aren’t crazy.”

    To which you wrote: “What if I give you a free helicopter?”

    In fact, there’s a sense of deja vu about your obtuse, dishonest, libertarian trolling. If I didn’t know better, I’d bet Skeptical Enlightenment is none other than our good friend RB, who has nothing better to do than sputter around under a pseudonym pretending to argue against arguments no one makes — and in doing so provides yet another object lesson of the soul of modern libertarianism.

    • Sorry to seem late to the party Billy, I just left the excellent care of the Lakeland Regional Medical Center and am finally back to the computer. I trust you’ll join me in celebrating my lack of cardiac disease and being on the road back to excellent health.

      As for this comment, you missed the point entirely. I was pointing out, through analogy, that even if you are given a FREE asset you are still responsible for the upkeep of that asset. I could also give you 10,000 acres of prime real estate, if that analogy can find easier root, but you probably couldn’t pay the ongoing property taxes in order to keep it. You would lose the land unless someone helped you pay for the taxes.

      The vast majority of public rail lines LOSE MONEY! Even if the Federal Government would build it lock stock and barrel for us Florida still has to pay to maintain the thing and subsidize the almost inevitable revenue losses when the line doesn’t meet its ridership expectations. On average, the US taxpayer subsidizes EVERY Amtrack rail ticket to the tune of $32. If this were a cost effective and viable transportation option they wouldn’t need government handouts to build it. Rational investors would be lined up to build it and reap the profits.

      As for my identity, I have communicated that with Chuck, whom I plan on meeting in person soon, and have communicated my reasons for anonymity to him. I won’t be throwing out personal insults anyway, so there’s really nothing to hide. I’m just seeking to keep my personal and professional lives separate in this age of the permanent Google memory.

      As for your other comments about US recessions, I grant you your data. According to NBER, there have been 32 recessions since 1854 and 2001 with the average duration of 17 months. What I challenge, however, is your interpretation of the data. I would argue that the post WWII recessions are, on average, shorter due to massive post-war economic growth, greater global trade interdependence, and the advent of the information age. We seem to have had the same sort of Fed cabal in charge pre and post war, so they have obviously failed miserably. Oh, but that just sparked another round!

      Oh hey, and wait a minute! The great Keynesians of the day argued that the end of WWII would be accompanied by the DOOM of the domestic economy. They predicted the end of massive Federal spending would lead to a depression to dwarf all depressions from the dawn of time. But of course, we now know what did happen. We were the beneficiaries of the longest peacetime expansion of any economy in history despite (or perhaps because) of the massive drop in Government spending.

      You know Billy, to my knowledge I’ve never insulted you personally. If I ever have, I sincerely apologize. I sincerely want the thoughts I express here to be useful and provocative in ways that stimulate thinking. I’m bound to be wrong from time to time and my efforts to be a good skeptical thinker must include the incorporation of new and even opposing information into my world-view. Reason with me and we can both sharpen our arguments, insult me personally and you just lower yourself to what you ascribe to me.

      I truly believe that Freedom works and I believe that American Exceptionalism is a product of our being the freest people on the Earth.

      I believe in Free Enterprise and that the most good comes from individuals being free to pursue what they feel suits them best.

      I believe that generations of experimentation have conclusively proven that central planning and collectivist thinking has been mankind’s most harmful ideas.

      I believe in the non-initiation of force, that I as a being with Natural rights is not free to trespass against others. From that premise, I also don’t believe that its right to trespass against others just because the majority voted for it.

      I’m for a lot of things Billy, I’m just not for things that I believe impoverish the many to enrich the few.

      • This is progress:

        “As for your other comments about US recessions, I grant you your data. According to NBER, there have been 32 recessions since 1854 and 2001 with the average duration of 17 months. What I challenge, however, is your interpretation of the data. I would argue that the post WWII recessions are, on average, shorter due to massive post-war economic growth, greater global trade interdependence, and the advent of the information age. We seem to have had the same sort of Fed cabal in charge pre and post war, so they have obviously failed miserably. Oh, but that just sparked another round!”

        We can work with that. Now, if we can get a similar acknowledgement of this data, we can get further (put aside my description of Hoover, just the numbers):

        Very briefly, the national unemployment rate in 1929, the year of Depression onset was 3.5 percent. The very “pro-business”, anti-intervention Republican Herbert Hoover was president. He did essentially all the things today’s conservatives say to do during a serious economic–essentially nothing. Unemployment went from 3 percent to 25 percent by 1932.

        FDR was elected in 1932, brought in the New Deal in 33, and unemployment fell to 13.8 percent by 1937. Then, under pressure from people like you, FDR pulled back on public spending. And unemployment rose to 16.5 percent by 1938. It had fallen to 13.9 percent by 1940.”

        My problem with you is that you continually, relentlessly either respond to arguments no one makes, or directly misstate arguments other people do make to jam them into your worldview. Speaking only for myself, that’s far worse than an insult. I’m a nearly 40-year-old man. I don’t get the vapors if people say mean things about me — as long as they address my arguments honestly and in good faith. You do not. Although the comment above is progress.

        One of these days, if you can begin to argue in good faith, it may dawn on you that saying solemnly: “I believe in Free Enterprise and that the most good comes from individuals being free to pursue what they feel suits them best” does not make you unique. You say that as if people who disagree with you about policies do not believe it. That’s not an ideology, it’s a platitude. Trust me, there’s not a person writing in this space who hates free enterprise and thinks that most good comes from individuals being unfree. 97.5 of America, in fact, would give that bumpersticker a strong thumbs up.

        The issue, of course, is that we all have differing conceptions of what these giant words mean: Free Enterprise, freedom, most good, individuals…, etc.

        So, get honest, and get off your high horse about your solemn creed of meaninglessness. Help us figure out what all these huge words mean, and I’ll take you seriously. Until then, you’re just guy a trying to be annoying on a blog.

  10. What this country needs is a damn good strike, IMO. Garbage. Yeah, garbage is good.

  11. Hey Billy – it’s Kevin Sandridge. Man, I need to monitor your posts more frequently! The comments alone are like a trip to a slam poetry event! I’m with you on your take re: HSR / CSX. Thanks for the post.

    • Well, you know, we endeavor to entertain. Not sure when I appointed myself the great scourge of libertarians, but someone has to do it, I guess. Hope all is well.

  12. No, the body evidence being history that clearly shows the failure of Hoover and the fact that FDR’s programs didn’t (perhaps couldn’t) go far enough to get out of the mess — but the jobs created and money poured into the economy during WWII did. The GI Bill and other programs that allowed vets to join the home ownership club, etc. also helped after the war. But we managed not to learn anything and bassically repeat the process that got in trouble in the first place culminating in 2008 and continuing today.

    Sorry, it is what it is.

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