Well! It Looks Like We Were Right!
In an earlier post, I briefly discussed how the major U.S. airlines have gotten together, formed alliances, split up the lucrative foreign routes, and then prevailed upon our government to forestall foreign airlines from coming in and competing with lower fares.
One of the reasons our airlines—American, United and Delta—have given to justify that government action is because they claim the foreign carriers are subsidized by their governments and that allows them to compete unfairly with lower fares.
That argument prompted Eithad Airways, an airline from the United Arab Emerates, to hire Risk Advisory Group, a London-based investigation and intelligence firm, to come up with information that might shed light on what support, if any, the U.S. government gives to OUR major carriers.
Well, whaddaya know! According to the consultant’s report, the three major U.S. airlines have gotten more than $70 billion in various tax breaks and other concessions from the U.S. government over the past several years. These include debt relief allowed by bankruptcy courts, pension fund bailouts, and fuel subsidies, among others.
Yes, I know … this is one of those “he said-she said” things, but it does support the contention by the National Association of Railroad Passengers and other passenger rail advocates that U.S. airlines get huge government subsidies in one form or another. And that, in turn, illuminates the hypocrisy of those in Congress who are certainly aware of those subsidies for the airlines, but then affect outraged that Amtrak needs a paltry subsidy of $1.4 billion a year just to maintain it’s current shoestring operations. (That $1.4 billion, by the way, represents 1/400th of one percent of the annual federal budget.)
Additional funds would enable Amtrak to order new equipment that would carry more passengers—the demand is unquestionably there!—which would generate additional revenue. In the meantime, it has been clearly established that Amtrak’s bare-bones budget has kept the company from completing work on the installation and implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) system as well as other upgrades and improvements affecting the safety of the system.
And yet, less than 24 hours following the tragic accident near Philadelphia, the House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce Amtrak’s funding request by some $260 million. Every Republican on the committee voted in favor of that reduction.