Days of Change

Riding the Rails

May 13, 2015
1 Comment

An Amtrak crash on what is known as the Northeast Corridor has sparked a new debate on its funding. These arguments go back to the Matrix analogy I gave, where liberals think that more money makes everyone safer and more protected in a safe goo-filled pod. Money makes trains safer. It puts devices on trains so that the conductors can’t make the train go over 100 mph, which was a major factor in the accident. Of course, high-speed rail will be moving that fast, so turns will not be available on those routes.

I consider Amtrak funding to be a false premise. In the real world, we have things called budgets. If your business needs 10,000 sheets of paper a year, you budget for it. However, if you need a copier, you don’t just get the ones the salesman tells you to get. If you can only spare $20,000 to be profitable, you don’t buy the $100,000 because it’s “better.” Funding is a different matter. The government essentially gives money to Amtrak to sustain commuter rail and a number of preexisting jobs. Some progressives have already argued that the Northeast Corridor is very busy, useful and necessary. My guess is that it is also profitable if separated from the entirely of Amtrak. If it’s not, the well-compensated work commuters can probably handle higher fares.

Many government programs are forced to be cost-effective when they are created. The White House did some creative accounting to make Obamacare “deficit neutral” when it passed. At one time, Amtrak was covered for some losses. The problem is that funding is often used to expand or modernize and operation. This sets it up to lose more money and require more funding. The Republicans trying to reduce funding to Amtrak are trying to force it to right size itself. They should spend the money on the parts of the train system that break even or make money and disband the parts that lose massive amounts of money.


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