Amtrak

Contrary to what Pelosi says, there are plenty of budget cuts to be made

It might not come as a shock to some of you, but the Treasury Department has announced that, unless Congress increases the country’s borrowing limit, it will no longer be able to pay its bills.

This announcement follows comments made by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) concerning the efforts of Republican members to restraint government spending. According to the House Minority Leader, the conservative push for any cuts to the federal budget is pointless.

Pelosi stated that “it’s really important that people understand” that there’s no more cuts to make to the federal budget, which has increased to $3.8 trillion this year, as opposed to $1.9 trillion per year up until 2001.

What Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to understand is that the American people can no longer afford to cover the expenses of a series of programs that could indeed be trimmed. With that in mind, experts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute decided to make a list of several programs that could be cut or trimmed to give Congress, and especially skeptics such as Nancy Pelosi, an idea of where they can start if they are indeed willing to ensure the American people are no longer forced to foot a bill they never signed up for.

According to the institute, about $1.2 billion could be saved if Congress took aim at the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The EERE’s goal is to offer training, resources and funding toward “business, industry, universities and others” who are willing to focus on increasing the use “of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.”

High Speed Idiocy

Since President Obama took office, the phrase “high speed rail” has become the buzzword for just about anything. Supposedly, it will stimulate our economy, reduce carbon emissions, and make cats and dogs live in perfect harmony. There’s just one problem I foresee with the President’s grand ambitions. I can’t find to many people interested in riding the damn thing.

High speed rail will cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. An entire infrastructure has to be put in place to support it as standard railways can’t handle the speed these trains can generate. That means more eminent domain seizures. That means less money for things people expect from government, be it law enforcement or welfare. That means years of construction with little to show for it prior to the grand unveiling.

For many that’s not that big of a deal. They’re willing to wait for something if it’s pretty awesome. They’re even willing to spend tax dollars for it. The question is, will it be worth a damn?

One of the knocks on Amtrak is best summed up by my trip to Manhattan, Kansas several years ago. I needed to actually get to Kansas City where a friend would pick me up. Taking Amtrak was going to take longer than a bus, and cost me more than taking a plane. There was no incentive to take a train at all, especially since a large chunk of that time period was a lay over.

In theory, high speed rail should solve that. The train moves faster after all. But the question is, will there be enough trains? A large part of my reason to not take a train - despite a desire to actually travel that way for once - was due to a very long lay over. The reason for that was because there isn’t enough traffic to justify more trains. So far, there’s little reason to assume high speed rail will have more travelers and therefore more trains running.

A few ways government could, you know, maybe not waste your money.

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1802, Letter to Thomas Cooper

Our federal government is an all-consuming, gargantuan parasite growing ever larger with each passing day. Under the rubric of providing for our every need from cradle to grave, it consumes more and more of our labor. It is, to quote Reagan, “like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

Yet one organization has a blueprint for reining in this ocean of red ink; Citizens Against Government Waste. CAGW has compiled a list of wasteful government spending each year since 1983, and the incorporation of some of its recommendations for the federal budget has resulted in spending cuts of $1.4 trillion.

A short sampling of potential taxpayer savings from this year’s report, Prime Cuts 2016, includes:

- Reducing improper Medicare payments by 50% over five years ($4.3 billion), noting, “Medicare is plagued with the highest reported amount of improper payments of any federal program…Because of its chronic vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, the [Government Accountability Office] has for 20 years designated the Medicare program as ‘high risk.’”

- Eliminating federal subsidies for Amtrak ($1.4 billion in one year, $7.1 billion in five years). Amtrak, a government-run railroad, has been in operation for 45 years at a cost to taxpayers of more than $40 billion. It has never turned a profit and now costs taxpayers almost a billion dollars a year, leading Amtrak’s founder to call it a “massive failure”.

TSA coming to a transportation system near you

TSA

The security theater we’ve all come to know and loathe at airports around the country is about to be expanded. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has expanded its operation through “VIPR” teams to transportation hubs, including Amtrak and public transit, in various cities across the country.

Welcome to mission creep, America:

As hundreds of commuters emerged from Amtrak and commuter trains at Union Station on a recent morning, an armed squad of men and women dressed in bulletproof vests made their way through the crowds.

The squad was not with the Washington police department or Amtrak’s police force, but was one of the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short — assigned to perform random security sweeps to prevent terrorist attacks at transportation hubs across the United States.
[…]
With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Not everyone is happy.

T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive.

Rick Santorum played up his economic statism in 2006

While Rick Santorum has become the latest conservative darling, an ad has surfaced from his failed 2006 re-election campaign where the then-struggling Senator was trying to convince Pennsylvania voters that he was a moderate on economic issues — including his for increasing the minimum wage and continuing subsidies for Amtrak — to deserve to be sent back to Washington.

Andrew Kaczynski also notes that Santorum’s campaign put together a pamphlet in an attempt to appeal to moderates, which included some points that should make economic statists like him.


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