What Amtrak Spends Its Money On

by Kevin D. Williamson

Before the bodies had been pulled out of the wreckage, Democrats were preaching the poor-mouth about Amtrak funding, often dishonestly. (Seriously, how is it that a Washington Post writer and his Washington Post editors don’t understand how federal spending works?) Smoking ruins of train cars in Philadelphia, and the usual ghouls start up with the usual thing: “Oh, if those mean Republicans had only let us spend money on the trains, this wouldn’t have happened!”

As has already been pointed out, everything from the stimulus bill to regular appropriations has spent billions of dollars on Amtrak, and Amtrak still failed to install the speed-control system that was supposed to be completed this year — a system that the NTSB and others believe would have prevented this accident.

So, the “investments” in safety systems have produced no safety system.

Where does Amtrak spend its money? Almost every dime of ticket revenue is spent on personnel — salaries, benefits, bonuses, etc. 

Amtrak can’t be bothered to finish up a safety system on time. But did Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman ever miss a nickel of his $350,000-a-year salary? No. Did Amtrak fail to pay employee bonuses? No—in fact, it paid bonuses to people who weren’t even eligible for them, and then refused to rescind them once it was pointed out that they were unauthorized.

So Amtrak took care of Amtrak’s priorities, just like every other government agency. But Amtrak’s priorities are not its customers’ priorities.

And that new safety system that was supposed to be operating by the end of the year at the latest?

Maybe by 2020.

Maybe not.

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