10 December 2006

Give Me Your Money

On one of the train e-groups I belong to we recently had a discussion involving AMTRAK. Such discussions are not uncommon amongst model railroaders, especially when the groups concerned have an international flavor, as is the case with most e-groups.

I am of the opinion that AMTRAK was fatally flawed from the beginning, that if there were any money to be made in passenger service that the big railroads would make it and if there wasn't then passenger trains needed to fade quietly into history. This opened the floodgates, soon posts were flying about government bailouts of airlines, electrification, reasons that no one took the train, and the amount of government subsidies in various transportation systems both in the US and overseas.

I love trains. You might have noticed the train related photos on site. I love riding the East Broad Top in south-central Pennsylvania. But I don't think my love for trains justifies taking money out of your pocket to pay for it. It is my stand that if a corporation cannot support itself through revenue from customers that willingly pay for the goods and services they provide then they don't deserve to exist. Period.

AMTRAK is not alone in this. Agriculture is also heavily subsidiesed, most notably in the sugar and dairy industries. There's a story going around right now about a man named Hein Hettinga who successfully took on the dairy industry in California for a period of about 3 years before they, with the help of Harry Ried, took him out. Basically the deal is that the California dairy producers were shafting the consumers to the tune of 20 cents a gallon, and Hettinga took advantage of a loophole that let him sell his milk for less. Thanks to Harry and his pals on the Hill the Congress closed that particular loophole, and the taxpayers took it on the chin. To the tune of about 1.5 billion dollars a year, according to watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

Price controls and corporate welfare have never been good ideas. They didn't work for Nixon, they didn't work for the Commies, they don't work for the consumers now. Congress needs to lose it's fascination with government "fixes" that are best left to the marketplace, fixes which end up being worse than the problems that they are supposedly solving.

One of the reasons the Republican ship went down in flames this last election was the voter's anger at the abandonment of conservative values, among them being limited government and fiscal responsibility. The Republican congresses of the past several years have seemingly abandoned these ideals wholesale. One thing is for certain, it's not Newt Gingrich's Congress.

My advice to the Republican party is to return to your roots. It's time to cast off the big government Republicanism (an oxymoron if I ever saw one) and rediscover the Reaganesque ideals of smaller, limited government and fiscal responsibility. If you do this you will attract the Libertarian middle and once again regain power. If you don't, get ready for long cold walks in the wilderness.

If Americans want people who act like Democrats to be in power, they will vote for Democrats. At least then there is no suprise.

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