George Will Swings and Misses.

Over the past few weeks, a number of newspapers ran a column written by conservative columnist George Will.

In it, he claims that Amtrak is hopelessly dependent on subsidies from the federal government and that the railroad should be cut loose and allowed to expire. What ignorant, irresponsible nonsense!  

Ignorant because he overlooks the fact that every American taxpayer coughed up $169 that was paid to the airlines to keep them operating during the pandemic. And how did the airlines thank us for that generous subsidy? With cancelled flights and higher fares.

Irresponsible because Will’s column was based on “research” provided by the Cato Institute, an ultra-conservative “think tank”  bankrolled by Big Oil and the highway lobby and scorned by serious transportation professionals for opposing any and all new public transit or passenger rail systems. 

In the column, Will complains that tax dollars are helping to support Amtrak.  That’s true, of course, but he conveniently neglects to mention that ALL public transportation is subsidized by government.  Tax dollars help to support the airlines by paying for the air traffic control system and for building and maintaining hundreds of regional airports all over the country. Tax dollars pay for the resurfacing of our roads and highways. For that matter, our tax dollars build and maintain bike lanes, too.

In the most recent “normal” non-pandemic year, almost 31 million passengers traveled on Amtrak. It’s a national rail transportation system that, yes, is helped by federal tax dollars, but pitifully few dollars amounting to a tiny fraction of one percent of the federal budget.

But George Will and the Cato Institute want to kill Amtrak because their economic philosophy opposes the spending of tax dollars on public transportation. So instead of the government helping to support all public transportation with a fair distribution of public funds, George Will and other devotees of his conservative philosophy want to play favorites: cars and buses and planes are fine; passenger trains are not.

Hang it up, George. Quit putting out idealogical crap like this column. Take the day off and take in a ballgame.