The Chicago Transit Authority, which provides bus service across the country's third-largest metropolitan area, is sputtering in the breakdown lane. The financially strained agency is prepared to slash service by 8 percent next month and increase fares between 25 and 50 percent. ...

The reason? Out-of-control salary and benefit costs for its unionized work force of more than 10,000. Bus drivers, maintenance workers and other employees get guaranteed annual pay increases and contribute next to nothing to their defined-benefit pension and retirement health care funds. Riders and state taxpayers pick up that burden. ...

Rather than roll over and watch the entire system bleed to death, Ms. Brown and transit authority officials are pushing for a bold reform to reduce future operating deficits: They want all future CTA hires to be enrolled in a 401(k)-type defined contribution retirement plan. ...

Such an effort requires courage in a union-dominated state. Thus far, no Nevada lawmaker or governor has been brave enough to champion pension reform and push for its passage, though former Gov. Kenny Guinn tried -- unsuccessfully -- to eliminate retirement health care subsidies for future state hires.

The pain already felt by Chicago foreshadows the kinds of sacrifices Nevadans will have to make if their elected officials can't rein in public-sector retirement costs.



The State Department now declares it's denying the passport application of anyone who owes more than $2,500 in delinquent child support. Now that millions of additional travelers need passports to travel back from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, such collections under the "Passport Denial Program" are on track to double this year.

"Folks will do anything to get that passport," chortles Adolfo Capestany, a spokesman for the state of Washington's Division of Child Support, "so it is a good collection tool."

What's wrong with that? Everyone should pay their child support obligations, right?

Of course. And their fines and taxes, too. Will municipalities now be able to enlist the helpful gang at Foggy Bottom to squeeze anyone owing more than $2,500 in old parking tickets? Will Americans be refused permission to return from abroad (you need a passport for that) if they have a dispute with the IRS about more than $2,500 in back taxes? ...

The founders warned that Americans would be living in tyranny if the boundaries between the local and federal government were ever erased, to be replaced with a "consolidated" regime. ...

The only responsibility of the passport agency should be to make sure our immigration officers can identify and re-admit U.S. citizens while barring those who have no right to be here -- and if you think they're doing even passably well at that job, try speaking English to the kitchen staff of any local restaurant.


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