(Video Above: Congressman Mo Brooks introduces an amendment to end subsidies to Amtrak)
WASHINGTON — Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) on Thursday urged Congress to end subsidies to publicly-owned and operated Amtrak, delivering a speech on the House floor saying, “It is time for Amtrak passengers to quit riding on the backs of other taxpayers.”
Between 1971 and 2015, Amtrak received $78 billion inflation-adjusted dollars from taxpayers, and has never turned a profit. In 2014 alone the service had a net loss $1.1 billion. This is evidence enough, according to Rep. Brooks, to put an end to the massive subsidies, forcing Amtrak to sink or swim on its own.
“If you want safety with rail service, probably the best thing to do is to put it in the private sector and eliminate Amtrak altogether,” he said. “Look at airlines and air carriers, they are private sector and much safer than Amtrak. Look at buses — private sector and better than Amtrak.
“The argument that this would end rail service is absolutely false and is not supported by history,” Brooks continued. “The evidence is clear: freight rail—the same argument was made and subsidies were ended. It went into the private sector and it survives and thrives today.”
Rep. Brooks argued that with the national debt increasing by the minute, and the price to service that debt quickly approaching an additional $800 billion annually, the country cannot afford to subsidize programs such as Amtrak.
“It is in this setting that I beseech this House of Representatives to be financially responsible, by supporting my amendment that eliminates federal government operating subsidies of Amtrak, thus forcing Amtrak to operate in the black,” Brooks remarked. “In Fiscal Year 2014, Amtrak had a net loss of $1.1 billion. Who paid for that loss? America’s children and grandchildren, that’s who! How so? Because America does not have the money and had to borrow every penny of that $1.1 billion… thus burdening Americans for generations to come.”
Amtrak has come under increased scrutiny after a tragic derailment in Philadelphia last month killed 8 people and injured dozens others. While some Democrats in Congress were quick to blame it on a lack of funds to the program, investigators now speculate the engineer was distracted using his cellphone when the train approached a curve in the tracks at nearly twice the speed limit.
“A business that relies on subsidies and tax dollars to cover losses has little incentive to operate efficiently or effectively or, for that matter, as safely as it should,” Brooks concluded.
The north Alabama congressman’s two amendments to the FY16 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development Appropriations Act, were ultimately not adopted, but the bill will continue to be debated as it moves through the legislative process.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015