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Brooks Asks House to End Taxpayer Subsidies for Amtrak

June 4, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Last night, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) offered two amendments to the FY16 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development Appropriations Act, which sought to eliminate federal government subsidies of Amtrak, thus forcing Amtrak to operate in the black.  The Congressional Research Service reports that, from 1971 to 2015, federal Amtrak subsidies totaled $78 billion (in constant 2015 dollars).  In Fiscal Year 2014, Amtrak had a net loss of $1.1 billion.  The House voted on Brooks’ amendments this afternoon and they were not adopted.

During House floor remarks, Brooks emphasized, “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.  Look at airlines and air carriers, they are private sector and much safer than Amtrak.  Look at buses, private sector and better than Amtrak.”

Further, Brooks stated, “The argument that this would end rail service is absolutely false and is not supported by history.”  He 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.”

Brooks concluded, “It’s time for Amtrak passengers to pay their own way.  It is time for Amtrak passengers to quit riding on the backs of other taxpayers.”

Video of Congressman Brooks’ remarks is available HERE.

In a House floor speech during debate on his amendments, Brooks stated the following:

Mr. Chairman, America recently suffered four straight trillion dollar deficits.  In the past few months, America’s debt blew through the 18 trillion dollar mark.  America pays over $200 billion per year in debt service which is more than four times what the federal government spends on highways, bridges, and interstates each year!

America’s Comptroller General warns that America’s deficits and debt paths are unsustainable.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warns that, our debt service cost is on a path to increase by another $600 billion within a decade . . . to more than $800 billion per year . . . that’s more than America spends each year on national defense!  The CBO also warns that, within a decade, if current trends continue, America will face yearly trillion dollar deficits in perpetuity! 

Per then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, debt is America’s (Quote) “greatest threat to our national security.”  As a result of America’s debt, in a few short years, America’s uniformed military personnel numbers will be our smallest since before World War II, America’s navy will have the smallest number of operational naval vessels since World War I, and America’s Air Force will have its smallest number of operational aircraft in its history.  Debt, not our enemies, is slowly but surely stripping America of its ability to defend itself!

In sum, Washington’s financial irresponsibility, this House of Representatives’ financial irresponsibility, is pushing America into a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy that will destroy the American dream for our children and grandchildren.

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.  How bad is the Amtrak subsidy problem?  The Congressional Research Service reports that, from 1971 to 2015, federal Amtrak subsidies totaled $78 billion (in constant 2015 dollars).

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!

Mr. Chairman, 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.  It is appalling that the federal government undermines and threatens the future of America’s children and grandchildren in order to subsidize Amtrak passenger service that would be self-sufficient if Amtrak riders stopped mooching off of hard-working American taxpayers and instead simply paid for the actual cost of their rides!

Amtrak supporters often claim that Amtrak will go out of business if it is not subsidized by American taxpayers.  That’s bunk unsupported by facts.  The same “woe is me” argument was made about freight train subsidies, yet, when freight rail subsidies ended and freight rail was sold to private investors in the 1980s,  freight rail did NOT go out of business and still operates today. 

Similarly, the federal government does not operate or subsidize national airlines or national bus services, yet airlines and buses operate profitably in the private sector . . . despite federal government subsidies for Amtrak, their competitor!  Just as airlines, bus services, and freight rail operate without government subsidies, Amtrak will do the same if this House of Representatives has the courage to wean Amtrak from the taxpayer nipple. 

Mr. Chairman, after more than 40 years it’s time to stop the runaway Amtrak train.  It’s time to force Amtrak riders to pay their own way by ending their subsidized rides on the backs of American taxpayers.  I urge adoption of my amendment to do just that.