Congress Denies Funding for Amtrak.
What will happen to passenger rail? The answer is nothing - at first. And this is one of the reasons why Congress and President Bush just might get away with it before anyone even notices.
Funding for many government programs is installed far in advance of the need for funds, or for the expenditures of those funds. This works something like when the price of oil goes up on the spot market and every gas station in town prices regular for ten cents more a gallon. The price that changes today doesn't immediately effect the actual cost of the gas you pump, but everyone connected with the industry feels the need to act as though a price change for crude oil has to be placed before the public in a way that will make the public notice.
There are two ways, then, that Amtrak could deal with a loss of funding. In the first way, the management of Amtrak starts to act like the damnfools (in our opinion) that run the gasoline industry and begins immediately to shut things down. But we predict that, for many, many political reasons, the management of Amtrak will act in the second way. That is, they will continue to run on in the current format until the money is used up. This could take months, and with the support of Congress in the way of Emergency Funding (read: Shut Up and Stop Whining and We Will Give You Some), even years.
We predict that the second way will prevail. Among the political reasons are that nobody who cuts Amtrak funding, including a Republican President, wants to be blamed when the sacred trains disappear. They hope the public forgets about it by the time they do.
God help us if the system starts to shut down at about the same time some jihadist decides to take another whack at the country.
Next time: The System Shuts Down (Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.) © 2005 email@example.com