Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Bush FY '06 Appropriation for Amtrak

The National Association of Railroad Passengers has the most comprehensive writeup that I have yet read about the Administration's Amtrak Appropriation Proposal. You will note that the Administration gives itself a political "pat-on-the-back" by earmarking $900 million in '06 versus ZERO in '05.

However, you will also notice that $900M is $400M LESS than Congress appropriated last year. Some have said that Amtrak needs last year's $1.3 billion, plus another $700M for a total of $2B, just to perform needed repairs to infrastructure that has been deferred.

Deferred Maintenance is an accounting method used to preserve capital by cutting expenses. It was common practice for Railroads to do this during their Dark Ages of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. The idea of spending capital as an investment to create profits is a concept almost entirely lost on the previous generation of Railroad Execs. Only recently has that concept been put into practice again.

So now, the Executive Branch and the Congress should, once again, take their cue from private enterprise and create funding for a passenger system that would be a big part of President Bush's plan to fight our "oil addition". Down the road, it might even lead to a break-even proposition. And, the United States would have a fine way to move people quickly and safely.

By the way, we all realize that "Accounting" is a four letter word, right?

There just isn't alot more to say about this $900M Appropriation, plus $400M for "incentive grants" as Stormin' Norman Mineta calls them, except that it is politics as usual. Some members of Congress are getting vocal, but let's remember what Mark Twain once said:

"Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work."

Here's hoping for a little lightning.


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