I’ve got to hand it to House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Republicans—they sure have nerve.
The day after Amtrak reported its 11th consecutive year of ridership growth, setting best-ever records for each month of 2012, Chairman John Mica (R-FL) held a hearing on Sept. 11—not to review the state of transportation security, but to rail against the evils of Amtrak’s “monopoly.”
The hearing title was, “A Review of Amtrak Operations Part 2: The High Cost of Amtrak’s Monopoly Mentality in Commuter Rail Competitions.”
Just in case facts matter, Amtrak doesn’t have a commuter rail monopoly—in fact, it only has about 15 percent market share.
Of course, we quickly learned that this hearing had nothing to do with commuter rail monopolies. Oh no, it was about amending U.S. rail laws to enrich private corporations that want to take over Amtrak’s most prized assets.
As I told the Committee today in my testimony, this hearing is really about pushing Mitt Romney’s plan for passenger rail: “dismantle Amtrak, cost thousands of Amtrak workers their jobs, subject Amtrak riders to chaos and uncertainty and tragically, undermine the Railroad Retirement System.” And if Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital approach wins the day, you can throw in a good dose of outsourcing too.
Amtrak’s opponents have paraded all sorts of ideas on Capitol Hill for one purpose—to create a legal and regulatory framework to disadvantage Amtrak. These companies, some of them foreign, want a gift from lawmakers: to be able to provide passenger rail service without complying with rail laws, such as Railroad Retirement, which covers almost 1 million active and retired workers and family members.
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) today summed it up pretty well: “This hearing is about good old-fashioned politics and a nod to the Republican jobs-killing platform.” Ask any of Amtrak’s 20,000 employees who listen to all the anti-Amtrak bluster on Capitol Hill what they think. They’ll tell you that Rep. Brown has it right – this is an assault on good middle-class Amtrak jobs.
My favorite myth from today’s hearing is that if you downsize and privatize Amtrak, jobs at Amtrak will “grow.” As I told committee members today, this is “addition by subtraction.”
Transportation Committee Republicans must have learned math in the Mitt Romney School of Government where tax cuts for billionaires will help the middle-class, repealing Obamacare will make everyone healthier and voucherizing Medicare for everyone 55 & under will save Medicare.