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A short trip became a day-long nightmare

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Amtrak: A Harmful Government Program?

A short trip became a day-long nightmare

Last week, HUMAN EVENTS published its list of the 10 Most Harmful Government Programs. The biggest scam known to mankind as Social Security topped the list as the most harmful, egregiously unconstitutional program. While at the time I wholeheartedly agreed with Social Security’s ranking on the Top 10 list, I hereby cast my vote for Amtrak.

Flying to Reagan National Airport from Raleigh can sometimes be costly, so I decided to do what my friends from the Northeast do — I decided to take the train from Durham, N.C., to Washington’s Union Station. Not only was it half the price of a plane ticket, but I had never been on a train and thought that it might be fun to see the countryside from a different perspective. For a while, it was nice to see rural North Carolina and Virginia’s small-town America from the window. It was interesting to see the landscape change from rural to urban and back again. However, the novelty wore off quickly.

I had heard Saturday that train service between New York and Florida had resumed after fixing a distressed railroad bridge in Selma, N.C. I fully expected the six-hour ride to Washington to last six hours. Instead, the departure for my nine-hour ordeal on Amtrak was first delayed, with an hour spent idling before the "fixed bridge" over a creek in Selma. While Amtrak’s slogan is "I want to get on," I simply could not wait to get off.

Not only were the delays ridiculous, but the food was mediocre at best. What kind of restaurant doesn’t take Visa? I found out- the Amtrak dining car. After the conductor told me four times that we would "be in Washington within the hour," I contemplated accusing the crew of purposely delaying the train as a discrimination against people with special needs that need to get somewhere, and then assaulting a police officer. I would then apologize to Congress while smirking, with Sen. Ted Kennedy, triple-amputee and former Sen. Max Cleland (D.-Ga.) and the ghost of Terri Schiavo by my side. That way I kill two birds with one stone — I make an outrageous accusation of "discrimination" against Amtrak and Ghost Terri strangles "Catholic" vegetable Ted Kennedy. After that, I can high-five Schiavo and say "You go, sister!" Where is Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D.-Ga.), Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte when you need them?

In this day and age, travel by train is not simply impractical, it is moronic. When we have cars that can drive twice the distance in the time it takes Amtrak to go somewhere, who needs a train? 1957 Chevy Bel Airs are nice, but is it practical to drive a tank to work? When technology is outdated, we should let it die. We shouldn’t let liberal politicians keep bailing the company out because it is an "environmentally compassionate" way to travel. Subsidized industries always fail, as history showed. While one man’s steamship company was subsidized by Congress in the 1800s, despite recurrent financial instability of his operation, Vanderbilt was running circles around his subsidized competitor. Moreover, can someone show me where the power to subsidize industries is in the Constitution? Oh wait, like just about every other government expenditure, it is not constitutional. Like burnt-out liberal ideology, some things never die.

Perhaps if the railroads were privatized, the service would be faster, more efficient, and the experience would be more enjoyable. But then again, I’d rather spend twice the money on a plane ticket and get to Washington in 1/9 of the time. Die Amtrak, die.

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Mr. Lewis is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

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