Mere hours after Train 188 from Washington to New York City jumped the rails and killed eight, the Democrat spin machine stood atop the wreckage and cranked up its familiar rant about Republican neglect of America’s infrastructure.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump opened with a piece Wednesday morning assailing Republicans for Amtrak’s “funding problems” (it was chartered as a for-profit agency, directed again by Congress to turn a profit in 1997, has never seen a drop of black ink and has soaked up some $45 billion in the four decades since inception) on the basis that Republicans don’t ride its trains.
Then came the parade of leftist politicians.
“We failed them,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) of the dead, before there was a firm body count.
“It is deeply troubling that my Republican colleagues defeated an amendment to fully fund Amtrak just hours after his tragic rail crash,” bleated Nita Lowey of New York, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee after a demand to double Amtrak spending to $2.45 billion — from the current level of $1.4 billion — went down on Wednesday morning.
Republicans must be “cognizant of the real world out there, of what happened last night, of what the capital needs of Amtrak are, and will not engage in short-sighted budget cutting,” lectured Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was eager to chime in, pointing out that his boss had proposed a slate of “investments” and “upgrades” to Amtrak’s infrastructure, but decried “a concerted effort by Republicans for partisan reasons” to block them.
And there was MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who delivered an insensate rant on her show Wednesday, saying the Amtrak crash was “on Congress’ head.” Another Democrat operative outfit, Agenda Project, put together a slick video screeching that “Republican cuts kill…Again,” together with an appeal for blood money to air it as a TV spot across the country.
The champion of the ghouls feasting on the deceased was former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, however. Wednesday he covered the airwaves, letting loose with an opera of discordant jabbering. “We cannot keep shortchanging infrastructure,” he said. And Republicans voting down the amendment Wednesday to flood Amtrak with $2.45 billion in subsidies were “SOBs” who “didn’t even have the decency to table the vote.” Rendell then decried the poor quality of the train cars which so easily crumpled, though Train 188 was only a year old and built to the industry standard. Perhaps the governor expected train cars to be built of cast-iron, so that the $2.45 billion he wants for Amtrak could go to pay for the extra fuel it would take to move them along the East Coast and elsewhere.
Rendell was, of course, his party’s show horse in selling a trillion-dollar “stimulus” package sold on the basis of fixing — everybody here knows the words; feel free to join in — Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure back in 2009. To the surprise of few, the stimulus dollars the Obama administration shoveled out of helicopters did little to improve infrastructure; that money went out as payoffs to the public employee unions who put the president in office in 2008, and there was little left over for a comprehensive upgrade to roads, rails, and airports.
Never once in his campaign to save our infrastructure did Rendell — or anyone else among the Crumbling Infrastructure crowd — bother to mention the 12-18 percent inflation of costs of infrastructure construction built into his party’s demand for federally-funding projects to be built with project labor agreements, or to point out the increased costs inherent in the antiquated Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements. That would imply actual sincerity in their commitment to infrastructure improvement, of course, and we know that isn’t part of the story.
And all of the ghoulish hectoring occurred just before the facts of Train 188’s demise were revealed — namely, that the 32-year old engineer, whom Amtrak had plucked from the elite ranks of Target cashiers and who had graduated to his current position from that of conductor in a mere few years, was rocketing its cars through a curve rated for 50 miles per hour at 106 MPH. Amtrak had installed a GPS-based system called Positive Train Control that would have prevented, by electronic means, so dangerously irresponsible a speed on Train 188’s line at the time of the crash.
But naturally, thanks to a bureaucratic SNAFU with the Federal Communications Commission, PTC wasn’t switched on.
That’s best described as a management issue, and it’s of a piece with the persistently incompetent quality of Amtrak’s leadership — the kind of incompetence that leads to paying bonuses to people who aren’t even eligible for them, losing millions of dollars on food while selling hamburgers that cost $16.50 to a captive audience, paying employees other railroads can hire at $13 per hour or lower an average of $41.19 per hour and other obvious examples of public-sector waste and mismanagement.
But while the Left will howl and scream about the management failures that gave us faulty brakes on Toyotas and kangaroo-court congressional hearings as a result, when Amtrak puts the lives of over 200 people in the hands of a sleepy 32-year old with a heavy foot the only cure is more money and more power for the public sector.
We really do need to find a way to impose some political hygiene upon the train-wreck ghouls and their compatriots in the gun-control movement, who similarly can’t wait for the bodies to cool before exploiting them to demand money, power and the loss of our freedom — not to mention the riot ghouls and global-warming ghouls.
Enough already. If Amtrak can’t survive as a supposedly for-profit enterprise with a billion and a half dollars a year of our tax dollars in subsidies, it is not the fault of the GOP — it’s Amtrak’s fault, and it’s time to auction off its profitable or potentially-profitable parts and shutter the rest.
That might produce a lot safer system of rail transit for those Americans actually interested in riding on it. But it wouldn’t, unfortunately, satisfy the ghouls.