Before the dead were counted and the facts known, the craven, partisan ghouls in our mainstream media were already using a terrible domestic tragedy to call for more government spending.
The media’s politically-loaded word of the day is “infrastructure.” This comes as absolutely no surprise when you understand that the foundation of all media bias is to increase the size and power of our centralized government. And what better way to do that than to feast off the fresh corpses of those killed on a passenger train run by our bloated, incompetent federal government.
And what better way to distract from the fact that 6 innocent people died on a passenger train run by our bloated, incompetent federal government than to blame-shift to the selfish taxpayers and the evil Republican Party.
You see, Amtrak is like Baltimore: although government has had its fingers in everything for decades, the only solution is more government.
Heads up! This is the media’s game-plan for the rest of the week: At least through the Sunday shows, the media will exploit the Amtrak tragedy to call for more government spending and blame Republicans.
That makes this a perfect time to arm yourselves with the facts:
- The Federal Government Owns and Operates Amtrak
Because train travel is an 18th century invention, by 1971 the passenger train business in America was dying. In its infinite wisdom, the government formed the publicly funded railroad service known as Amtrak.
- Amtrak Loses Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year
Although a law was passed in 1997 that required Amtrak to become profitable by 2002, since 2009, Amtrak has lost somewhere around a whopping $2 billion.
- American Taxpayers Subsidize a Service They Don’t Use
Most Amtrak lines service what’s known as the Northeast corridor ,where most of the taxpayers subsidizing this government owned and operated service do not live. Not only are we (and future generations) funding Amtrak, it isn’t conveniently available to those of us paying for it.
- Very Small Percentage of the Population Use a Government Service We All Pay For
There are more than 300 million people in America, yet ridership is only around 25 million per year. That is a very small percentage of the population using this taxpayer-funded white elephant we all are forced through government coercion to subsidize.
- Amtrak Has Already Been Subsidized to the Tune of a Whopping $45 billion
Since the government took it over, Amtrak has sucked up about $45 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies over the last 44 years.
- Amtrak Is Set to Receive Another $7 Billion Over the Next 5 years
The same media telling you Amtrak is under-funded is not telling you that Amtrak will receive $7 billion in welfare through 2020.
The bipartisan Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 would subsidize Amtrak by an estimated $7 billion from 2016 to 2020. It passed the House by 316 votes to 101 votes on Wednesday and is now headed to the Senate and, presumably, President Obama’s signature. Amtrak has been operating without official funding authorization since the previous bill expired in October 2013.
- Amtrak Is Not Under-Funded, It Is Criminally Mismanaged
Amtrak’s largest expense is labor, salary, and benefits, which cost over $2 billion in 2014. Maintaining fully-staffed trains on infrequently-traveled routes has contributed to high labor costs, but the pay rate of Amtrak’s employees raise its costs substantially. The average onboard employee made $41.19 an hour on Amtrak in 2012, while railroads that contracted out services to private companies paid their employees $7.75 to $13.00 an hour.
Base pay may already be substantial, but regulations and poor oversight allowed employees to pocket $185 million in overtime pay in 2013. The management allowed employee misconduct and wasteful business practices to thrive, even as at the same time it hindered plans to make train stations accessible to the disabled to comply with the Americans with Disability Program.
Amtrak’s did not meet ADA’s goals due to lack of structure and a strategy, according to a 2014 IG report. Management activities took up 46% of the $100 million budget, $6.5 million was spent on unrelated projects, and an undetermined amount was shipped out of state on non-ADA projects.
- American People Subsidize $60 of Every Amtrak Ticket Sold
When you look at the figures, the math is not difficult:
With a ridership of only 25 million people, that means for every person boarding a train, the American people are paying $60. I did a quick check on Amtrak’s Web site – to travel from New York City to Washington, D.C., will cost the traveler $69. Does it make sense that it costs the person traveling $69 and the American government $60?
And now for the most galling factoid…
- Taxpayers Subsidize Passengers Who Can Afford to Make Amtrak Profitable
The welfare queens riding in Amtrak luxury at the benefit of the American taxpayers are mostly not the poor. Nevertheless, you and I and future generations are subsidizing every ticket purchased by those who can afford to pay the fare required to make Amtrak profitable.
Many of the same media elite already using Tuesday night’s tragedy to call for more government spending on Amtrak, also are guilty of welfare queening on Amtrak between their Emerald Cities of Washington DC and Manhattan.
This is from a 1997 Cato Institute Study. There is nothing, though, that indicates anything’s changed much. In fact, with the labor force so diminished and Washington DC attracting more and more of the connected and wealthy, it would not surprise me to learn that even fewer of the poor benefit from Amtrak:
Amtrak’s typical riders are not low-income Americans. The poor are less likely to travel by Amtrak than by most other travel options. Only 13 percent of Amtrak passengers have incomes below $20,000. The average Amtrak rider has a higher household income than the average taxpayer. In fact, the clientele for Amtrak Metroliner service between Washington and New York consists largely of Wall Street traders, K Street lobbyists and other affluent business travelers. These folks aren’t poor.
- There Is No Good Reason for The Government To Own Amtrak
Other than misguided nostalgia and the screaming welfare queens in the media, there is no logical or justifiable reason not to give Amtrak away for free to a private business that can make it profitable, and save the taxpayers billions.
The selfish harpies in the mainstream media might lose a few more dollars out of their fat checks by paying full fare, but that sounds like a one-percent problem to those of us in the real world.
- The Amtrak Derailment Might Be Yet Another Failure of the Federal Government
We don’t know yet what caused the crash. Here’s what we do know…
The Federal Government owns and operates Amtrak.
Instead of spending money on improved safety, the Federal Government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on unnecessary rail lines and labor costs.
If safety or infrastructure were indeed the cause of this crash, the Federal Government mismanaging a business they have no business running is at fault — not the taxpayer.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC