There are those who believe money can solve anything, and that more money will solve everything. In our everyday life, this conviction is shared by both the pauper and prosperous alike. This false belief is never more evident than by those who kneel at the altar of big government.
There are those who have made it a career of inverting words and using creative phraseology to hide their failures. Spending becomes investment, taxes and fees become revenue, and bloated and befuddling legislation becomes comprehensive. For big government advocates each failure has nothing to do with poor concept, poor execution, fraud or mismanagement, but the fallacy that we just did not spend enough money to solve the problem.
This past week we witnessed a tragic Amtrak train derailment between Philadelphia and New York. Before the wreckage had been cleared, before the investigation had commenced, while families were still waiting for word of the whereabouts of a missing loved one, and while others mourned the loss of family or friend, the politicians had all the answers. The cause of the accident was simple for the great minds in Washington: lack of funding.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the train was speeding at 106 mph just before it derailed as it entered a curve where the safe speed was designated at 50 mph. The NTSB believes the speed could indicate the problem was human error, not a flaw with the rail lines or equipment. The NTSB believes a mandated safety control system, known as a speed-control system, or “positive train control” or PTC, would have prevented this accident.
As fate would have it, Congress was readying to debate an Amtrak funding bill when the tragedy occurred. Living by the words “never let a crisis go to waste,” the politicians ran to the waiting arms of the media and talked about draconian cuts, crumbling infrastructure and pointed at the Republicans for “‘slashing” the most recent Amtrak budget.
What is ignored by most of the “blame gamers” is that everything from the stimulus bill to regular appropriations spending over the past quarter century has spent billions of dollars on Amtrak, and Amtrak still failed to complete the installation of a PTC system that was mandated by Congress and was supposed to be completed by 2016. But the plot thickens; the completion was not entirely Amtrak’s fault.
Amtrak had the funding to install the PTC system and so far has spent $110 million in an effort to complete the task. The PTC system was installed along the section of track outside Philadelphia where the crash occurred, but it was not operating. Why? Amtrak reported it encountered install delays turning the PTC on throughout its system because of the need to get the bandwidths required to upgrade the PTC wireless signal to a higher MHz, an upgrade that improves reliability. And who was delaying this upgrade? The Federal Communication Commission.
The FCC had denied the upgrade, and the two federal entities, Amtrak and the FCC, were engaged in a bureaucratic turf war over implementing the PTC system, which was mandated by another federal entity, Congress. Big government in all its glory. Billions of taxpayer dollars wasted, politicians playing the blame game while families mourn, and “We the People” are left shaking our heads in utter amazement at the pure ineptitude of those elected or hired to serve our best interests.
Amtrak is not under-funded. It is a model of big government inefficiency, mismanagement and blatant criminal misdeeds. In 1997, Congress passed a law that required Amtrak to be profitable by 2002. Yet since 2009, Amtrak has lost a staggering $2 billion. During that same time period Amtrak lost $834 million in food and beverage service because of employee theft, waste and lack of proper oversight.
How America can achieve and support a modern transportation system is a conversation that needs to be had. However, if anyone believes more money and a heavier hand of big government is the answer, you are part of the problem, not the solution.
Some $22 trillion spent on the “War on Poverty,” barely moving the percentage of those living in poverty. Almost a trillion dollars misspent/wasted/abandoned on failed Obamacare technology projects, and another $295 billion spent on expired or redundant big government programs. This is only scratching the surface of the federal government’s incompetence. What ills America is not the lack of money, but the lack of commonsense.
There are those who will never admit that their indifference, ideology or over-inflated egos have more to do with the failure of an endeavor, than it does the amount of money so callously thrown at it by politicians and bureaucrats.