The deadly derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia barely had time to sink in before the infrastructure debate began at Capitol Hill.
Predictably, the Democrats launched a campaign for more federal spending in the wake of this tragedy. Claiming that Congress had “failed to invest in their safety,” Steve Israel (D-NY) brought up the victims of the disaster to make their case for more infrastructure spending.
Let’s start with the facts. The train attempted to take a bend going more than twice the 50 mile-per-hour speed limit for that section of track. That’s like a tractor-trailer doing 100 in a 50 mile-per-hour zone. If this isn’t a wake up call, then I don’t know what is! Why was the driver going so fast? This is clearly an issue of human error; not the result of government neglect.
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To claim that more than $1 billion a year in Amtrak subsidies was insufficient to prevent this tragedy is insane. The last thing we need is for Congress to dump more money into this raggedy burden on tax-payers.
Democrats are often eager to piggy-back on national tragedies to push through a liberal agenda. President Obama has made infrastructure spending a pressing issue since he came into office, including it as grounds for his failed stimulus, saying, “We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again.”
The amount of money wasted on Amtrak is offensive to the taxpayers who are forced to fund it. Congress created Amtrak in 1970 to replace the private rail services that, according to Amtrak, “had operated services at a net loss of millions of dollars for many years.”
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Net losses of millions of dollars, you say? Annual revenue shows that in 2014 Amtrak lost over a billion dollars, according to its financial results. In 2013, Amtrak lost nearly $1.3 billion. Since its creation, Amtrak has racked up over $31 billion in accumulated losses.
The New York Times reports Amtrak can’t event make a dollar off of selling food and drinks at a virtually unlimited markup to captive passengers with no other options. In fact, Amtrak’s food and beverage service has not broken even since it was required by Congress to do so in 1981.
Amtrak’s salary costs denote its infrastructure depreciation expenses. In 2013 Amtrak spent $2.1 billion on salaries and recorded $687 million in annual depreciation costs. Guys punching tickets for Amtrak are making six-figure salaries.
Democrats are trying to exploit this tragedy for more ammunition to raise people’s taxes, and for what? Amtrak isn’t worth investing in.
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