We will never understand the political process. Or perhaps, we understand it too well.
We understand what it says in The Constitution without too much difficulty. Even though it was written over 200 years ago, it is clear and concise, and you get a real feel for what The Founding Fathers were thinking. The Supreme Court should be a real easy job. Just read The Constitution.
But we still don't understand the political process. When Amtrak says it needs $X for the next year's budget, Congress always gives it a number $Y that is $X minus $A, where $A is an arbitrary number. There also seems to be some rule that says when a Republican administration is in office, $A has to be more than 50% of $X.
We suppose it is because the Constitution doesn't really account for government subsidy of Passenger Rail. Viable railroads were nearly a half century in the future for The Framers. In those days, it was hard to imagine a private enterprise that would one day be so important to the National Welfare that government would consider a subsidy to establish, advance and run it. About as close as it comes would be the need, recognized in The Constitution, for Federal Government to support and maintain a standing army. That was about as large as enterprises had grown, and the first large railroad corporations were patterned along military lines.
It's too bad that The Constitution doesn't say, "In recognition of the Fact that Anything Worth Doing By Government is Worth Doing Well, it shall be the Duty of Congress to fully fund all Government Enterprise." We would also like it to say, under a chapter titled "Waste and Deception," that, "All government waste and deception discovered by audit or other devise shall be subject to a rebate in taxes to all payers equal to twice the amount of deception or waste."
Back to Amtrak budgets.
We run about waving our hands and yelling that Congress is intentionally trying to bankrupt Amtrak and it will have to be liquidated. (There are times when we see this as a good thing.) Nonetheless, we have to recognize that this is more likely, absent Constitutional clauses to the contrary, politics as usual. Congress doesn't want to bankrupt Amtrak any more than it wants to push elderly ladies into the Potomac. It just wasn't given any specific directions to the contrary.
© 2006 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org