Scott Burns’ recent column (“Amtrak’s 40 years always off track,” May 28) unfairly demands that Amtrak run profitable rail passenger service despite private sector operators’ failure to achieve that without also transporting mail and small freight services. Applying Burns’ Amtrak illogic to other government activities would support abolishing or selling off the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Inland Waterway Network and numerous other public agencies that annually fail to be profitable.
Burns’ illogic would also require that every public street and highway either be converted to for-profit toll facilities or sold to the highest bidders. Once our society is thus immobilized, we can return to the agrarian ways of our nation’s founders, relying on feet, horses and canoes for very limited mobility that cannot possibly sustain our current domestic economy.
Experience across our nation and around the world shows that operation, improvement and expansion of intercity rail passenger services provide direct benefits to communities and states via tax-revenue increases from economic redevelopment that exceeds the trains’ operating loss.
Similarly, construction of the interstate highway system supported economic development, which provided higher tax revenues that often benefitted whole communities.
Neither highways nor passenger trains earn a direct profit. Despite earnestly offered (and widely believed) testimony to the contrary, the cost of highway construction, operation and maintenance never has been fully paid by user fees. According to a study by the Texas Transportation Commission, not one mile of Texas roadways generates enough user-fee revenue to cover that mile’s total direct costs.
In contrast, Amtrak covers over 70 percent of its total direct annual costs from fares and on-board food and beverage services. That percentage is growing while the degree of economic self-sufficiency for all other transport modes is shrinking.
Rail passenger services also help to reduce the resource-intensity of national transportation operations. Further, service expansion provides options for the ever-increasing percentage of persons over 65 who are becoming disenchanted with driving everywhere and those under 35 who reject the notion that car ownership is essential for a rewarding life.
Burns and his fellow believers need to talk with those who use and support passenger rail. They might gain a better grasp of why rail passenger service is valued by those already using it, and why our nation genuinely needs more of it.
J. Howard Harding
Vote, but verify
Now running in swing states across our nation are attack ads by those wonderful right-wing super PACs denigrating President Obama’s performance as president. It would behoove every citizen to check the facts before making a decision.
Among the many falsehoods the ads portray is that President Obama sent half a billion taxpayer dollars overseas to Finland. The truth is, the money was a loan to Finland approved by George W. Bush, of which only $190 million has been spent.
I shudder to think our electorate will be swayed by falsehoods and that the weaker candidate may assume the presidency. Check your facts first, then decide who has your best interests at the core of his presidency.
Daniel E. Rowland
This is in response to the letter by William Lally (“Get real about gay marriage,” May 31) in which he attacks Gary Giorgio’s opinion on gay marriage. Lally states, “Our society will ultimately be strengthened by the inclusion of gay relationships into the stability of legal marriage, and the good results will be future generations that are more compassionate and understanding.”
I wonder what the “good results” are supposed to be. In a normal marriage, besides a man and his wife loving each other and being dedicated to each other, there are children. Can children be born in a gay marriage? I think Lally is telling us more than he knows.
To see political future, look at economic past
There is a lot of talk from both sides about which candidate would better handle the U.S. economy. Here is a quick glance at the past 50 years:
Republicans have held the White House for 28 years; Democrats, 22.
Republicans created 24 million jobs; Democrats, 42 million.
The stock-market return under the Republicans was 109 percent; under the Democrats, 992 percent.
Annualized stock-market returns under Republicans were 2.7 percent; under Democrats, 11 percent.
The gross domestic product grew under Republicans by 2.7 percent; under Democrats, by 4.1 percent. Real income growth under Republicans was 0.6 percent; under Democrats, 2.2 percent.
Not only does the working class do better under Democrats, but so does big business and the financial markets. The next time you hear Republicans talking about how bad a Democrat in the White House is, please remember the facts.
President, United Steelworkers Local 2L
If homosexual couples believe themselves eligible for family benefits, let them give birth to a child without the assistance of medical science or a third party. Then, perhaps they would create a legitimate family. I bear no ill feelings toward homosexuals except those who persist in waving placards or otherwise attempt to convince the public that theirs is a “normal” way of life, when in fact it is not.