Debate Forum: Right 2/16/11

Obama Plays Railroad Tycoon with Our Tax Dollars

By Mark Luedtke

Mark Luedtke

I loved electric trains when I was a kid. My first model train was a classic “O” gauge model I got for Christmas. You could put drops in the smokestack and it would smoke as it chugged around the tracks. My family used to go down to Carew Tower in Cincinnati every Christmas and look at the model train displays. When I was in high school, I graduated to “HO” scale and built a model train display on a 4’ by 8’ sheet of plywood in the basement. It had working crossings and individually controlled lights.

I still enjoy seeing model train displays. Last summer I enjoyed an exhibit at Carillon Park. Most men have a soft spot for trains. Just look at the success of Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon video games.

But nobody is more infatuated with playing with trains than President Obama. Unfortunately, he’s not satisfied with model trains or video games. Big boys like to play with big boy toys, and since Barry heads the most predatory government in the world, he plans to steal $53 billion from taxpayers so he can play Railroad Tycoon with real engines and real tracks. If we resist him, he might hold his breath until he passes out.

Power corrupts, and tremendous power corrupts tremendously. Madeline Albright once said of the military, “What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin [Powell], if we can’t use it? [sic]” It’s hard to imagine any quote that better illustrates how the ruling class thinks of the rest of us. We’re not equals. We’re not even human. We’re cattle to be milked, eaten, or sent to die fighting their wars. Among other things, Barry intends to milk us so he can play railroad tycoon with real trains.

This proposal has nothing to do with improving the lives of Americans. We know this because if Obama’s trains were valuable – economic value is measured by profits – private sector actors would already have invested in them. They would already be built, people would buy unsubsidized tickets, they would be profitable and they would create wealth. Nothing is stopping millions of people on the left who invariably support these boondoggles from investing their own money in high-speed rail. Nothing is stopping George Soros, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates from putting together a high-speed rail company, risking their own money, raising money from other high-speed rail supporters, and implementing high-speed rail with funds raised voluntarily.

If these plutocrats of the parasitic political economy thought it was profitable, they would do it. But they don’t think it’s profitable, just like Amtrak isn’t profitable. According to John Stossel, “Amtrak loses $32 for every ticket it sells. So few people ride the line from New Orleans to Los Angeles that it manages to lose $462 per passenger.” Subsidies from taxpayers make up the difference. Because it has no value, because these trains would destroy wealth, the only way high-speed rail will ever happen is if Obama steals the money from us at the point of the government’s gun.

According to long-time subsidized Amtrak passenger, Vice President Biden, one of the benefits of high-speed rail is environmental friendliness. But according to the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole, “Planners have predicted that a proposed line in Florida would use more energy and emit more of some pollutants than all of the cars it would take off the road.” O’Toole also notes the decline of market share of high-speed rail in Europe and Japan to automobiles. “If high-speed rail doesn’t work in Japan and Europe, how can it work in the United States?” Like Biden, many people who ride the trains, enjoy having other people pay for it, but we shouldn’t pay attention to the recipients of stolen funds.

It’s even disingenuous to call Obama’s plan high-speed rail. O’Toole explains why it should be called moderate-speed rail, “Outside of the Boston-Washington corridor, the fastest Amtrak trains have top speeds of about 80 to 90 mph and average speeds of 40 to 50 mph. Obama proposes to boost top speeds to 110 mph in some places, which means average speeds no greater than 70 to 75 mph.” That barely competes with highways, and riders have to find transportation to and from train terminals. It makes no economic sense. That’s why nobody voluntarily risks his or her own money on high-speed rail.

Like all government programs, Obama’s railroad tycoon fantasy is about looting the people to enrich the ruling class. Who do you think will pocket most of that $53 billion? It won’t be us cattle. It will be the robber barons contracted to build Obama’s railroad empire, and they’ll send a lot of those tax dollars back to politicians in the form of campaign donations and gifts. Obama has already spent $10.5 billion on this boondoggle, but I haven’t seen one picture of new track or equipment. Most of that money has already lined ruling class pockets. As always our rulers are enriching themselves by looting us.

Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at

Mark Luedtke
Reach DCP freelance writer Mark Luedtke at

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