The “sickout” that Gary the Intern attested to is over and, due to various violations of ratpag’s editorial standards and strict code of conduct, Gary has been fired and will not be receiving course credit for his time with us.
Our absence can be attributed to a lengthy, difficult case of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning related to a tray of oysters that Gary had brought in to celebrate last week’s Friday Fun Post. Suspiciously, Gary claims to be “allergic” to shellfish and, thus, did not consume any of the offering that he brought in.
Furthermore, Gary’s headline-writing forgetfulness and indiscriminate flouting of Rule 5, Section VIII(ix) of ratpag’s charter, as well as his self-proclaimed interim status as ratpag COO, story-idea-stealing, and accusations that we were purposely calling in sick to avoid work, have accumulated Gary enough demerits and stern verbal warnings to warrant his dismissal. You’ll be missed, Gary, for who will now show up at Shake Shack at 7 a.m. to pick up our lunch orders?
While we wait for applications to come in to fill Gary’s role (remember – we don’t pay!) we’ll look at the latest news in the world of Amtrak and how we can keep it just the way it is, forever, because apparently passenger rail is already the best it can possibly be in the United States.
To start, our friends at Railway Track & Structures have reported that the House has “approved the fiscal year 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding bill.” What a wonderful acronym they’ve created for this one. They approved $52 billion which we suppose is all well and good (though it is $7.8 billion lower than what the president requested) as it’s something.
Many of our favorite government agencies saw minor cuts or minuscule increases, such as the FRA’s drop of $193 million to $1.4 billion or rail and safety research jumping by $750,000 to $220.5 million. High-speed rail received no funding while Amtrak remained steady at $340 million for operations and $850 million for capital grants.
That Amtrak remained steady is something of a small victory after the efforts of one Representative Paul Broun of Georgia, who is now been emblazoned into our Shit List, as he felt it was “time to send [Amtrak] a message.” How so? Well, his first attempt was to eliminate all $340 million of Amtrak’s operational budget, which was “rejected by voice vote.” His second attempt, also rejected, would have cut Amtrak’s budget by 10 percent, or $34 million, a “paltry amount,” according to Broun.
Broun, surely a brilliant man as evidenced by his belief that “evolution and the Big Bang are ‘lies straight from the Pit of Hell,'” and, of course, that “Earth is about 9,000 years old,” somehow seems to have missed the counterproductive potential of de-funding an organization that runs at a deficit. Of course, we realize that he just doesn’t like Amtrak. So it’s a damn shame that Mr. Broun lost his bid to get on the ballot as Senator from Georgia. We can only very much hope that this, too, will keep him out of Congress and away from destroying Amtrak altogether (we’re sure he’ll be up to something).
Finally, we’ll end on a nice note as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel discusses the need to “badger Congress for Amtrak expansion.” We couldn’t agree more. The J-S uses actual survey data to support their cause, revealing that
85% of [Wisconsin] residents say they want Amtrak funding increased or maintained at current levels.
Further, they show that
Amtrak’s favorable/unfavorable rating 66%-18% among Republicans and 67%-21% among conservatives.
We all know that the other side of the aisle is already pretty big on rail expansion and infrastructure investment and, so, these numbers show that transportation seems to be one of the few things that most everybody agrees on and, yet, we still can’t get the appropriate funding needed to make up for backlogs and expand where new infrastructure is needed.
But don’t worry – that’s what ratpag is here for. We’ve cut the dead weight that was Gary and now can now plow full-steam into the transportation funding battle — after the weekend. We don’t do weekends.