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Amtrak's Big Lie

January 14, 2020 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O'Toole

Recent articles in respected business journals report that Amtrak lost only $29.8 million in 2019 (out of $3.3 billion in total revenues) and that it expects to make a profit in 2020. This is a remarkable turnaround for a company that cost taxpayers more than $100 billion in its first 49 years of existence. Amtrak accomplished this using a simple yet apparently effective technique: It’s called lying.

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Amtrak’s accounting system is so full of lies that even the pro-passenger train Rail Passengers Association calls it “fatally flawed, misleading, and wrong.”

The first lie is that Amtrak counts taxpayer subsidies from the states as “passenger revenues.” According to Amtrak’s unaudited report, 17 state legislatures gave Amtrak a total of $234 million in 2019. The taxpayers in those states were never allowed to vote on these subsidies, and the vast majority don’t ride Amtrak. These subsidies are no more “passenger revenues” than the subsidies given to Amtrak by Congress. Deducting these subsidies from revenues immediately increases Amtrak’s 2019 losses to $264 million.

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An even bigger lie is Amtrak’s failure to report depreciation in its operating costs. Ignoring depreciation is an old railroad accounting trick aimed at misleading investors by boosting apparent profits.

A classic example was the Rock Island Railroad, which ran many fast passenger trains throughout the Midwest in the 1950s. Then Rock Island proposed to merge with another railroad, and to improve the merger terms it began deferring maintenance. By the time the federal government approved the merger, Rock Island’s tracks were so decrepit that its passenger trains ran as slow as 10 miles per hour. The other railroad backed out, and Rock Island shocked the nation by going out of business.

The Interstate Commerce Commission responded by requiring railroads to include depreciation among their operating costs. This represents the amount of money railroads have to spend or save to keep their infrastructure and equipment in good shape, ensuring that …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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7 Little-Known Legacies of Teddy Roosevelt

January 14, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

From national parks, to clean meat to football, the 26th president left his mark on the American landscape.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, is an outsized figure in American politics. He became president in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley, and the brash and independent Roosevelt quickly remade the presidency in his own image. More than a century later, American politics and culture still bear the imprint of his legacy.

1. He Was America’s First Cowboy President

Theodore Roosevelt at 25, wearing a cowboy outfit from his time working in the Dakotas, 1883.

Born and raised in New York City as an asthmatic and sickly youth, Roosevelt became enamored with stories of frontier adventure. In his 20s, he went on a hunting trip in the Dakota Territory and ending up buying land and a ranch in what would become North Dakota. Through his hunting exploits and self-promoted heroics at the Battle of San Juan Hill, Roosevelt cultivated an image of himself as an avid outdoorsman and cowboy soldier.

Other American presidents embraced Roosevelt’s brand of rugged American manliness. President Lyndon Johnson, a towering Texan, loved to be photographed in his Stetson hat while entertaining heads of state on his LBJ Ranch. President Ronald Reagan, whose Secret Service nickname was “Rawhide,” took daily morning horseback rides on Rancho El Cielo, his “Western White House” in California. And President George W. Bush spent a record 490 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he was photographed clearing brush and wrangling animals in his cowboy hat.

READ MORE: How Teddy Roosevelt Crafted an Image of American Manliness

2. He Was the First US President to Win a Nobel Peace Prize

Although Roosevelt was famously aggressive in his foreign policy (he famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”), he also proved to be a skilled diplomat. When Russia went to war with Japan in 1904, Roosevelt offered his services as an arbitrator. After initial resistance, both sides came to the bargaining table in New Hampshire in 1905, where Roosevelt brokered the peace settlement that won him the Nobel Prize.

When Germany and France almost went to war over the political division of Morocco, Roosevelt stepped in again and brokered an agreement that saved face for each nation involved. Some historians believe the 1906 deal delayed the outbreak …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Battle of Yorktown

January 14, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

When British General Lord .

“After nightfall on October 14, the allies fired several consecutive shells in the air that brilliantly illuminated the sky,” Chernow writes. At that point, Hamilton and his men rallied from their trenches and sprinted across a quarter-mile of field with fixed bayonets. “For the sake of silence, surprise, and soldierly pride, they had unloaded their guns to take the position with bayonets alone. Dodging heavy fire, they let out war whoops that startled their enemies. … The whole operation had consumed fewer than ten minutes.”

READ MORE: How Alexander Hamilton’s Men Surprised the Enemy at the Battle of Yorktown

Cornwallis Surrenders

Of his 400 infantrymen, Hamilton lost just nine in the attack, with some 30 wounded, while the 400 French-led troops lost 27 men, with 109 wounded, according to Fleming. Surrounded by enemy fire, and blocked from receiving aid by the French fleet that had arrived in Chesapeake Bay, Cornwallis was trapped.

The successful siege allowed the allies to complete the second parallel trench and “snuffed out the last remains of resistance among the British.” In a final effort on October 16, Cornwallis attempted a nighttime sea evacuation, but he was stopped by a storm.

On the morning of October 17, the British sent forward a red-coated drummer boy, followed by an officer waving a white handkerchief to the parapet. All guns fell silent—Cornwallis had surrendered.

The End of the War

General Lord Cornwallis surrendering his sword and his army to General George Washington and the Continental and French armies after the final battle of the Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781 in Yorktown, Virginia.

Following the Battle at Yorktown and Cornwallis’s surrender—and the British down one-third of its force—the British Parliament, in March 1782, passed a resolution calling for the nation to end the war. “Oh God, it is all over!” Prime Minister Frederick North exclaimed upon hearing of the Yorktown surrender, writes Alan Taylor in American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804.

The British still had 30,000 men in North America, occupying the seaports of New York, Charles Town and Savannah,” according to Taylor. But the demoralizing loss at Yorktown diminished the British will to continue to fight the rebels. On September 3, 1783, the Revolutionary War came to an official end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Putin's Russia Is Not the Soviet Union Reborn

January 14, 2020 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Key Point: U.S. foreign policy must catch up with the developments of the past thirty years and reassess its relationship with Russia.

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The American public and U.S. policymakers both have an unfortunate tendency to conflate Russia with the Soviet Union. That habit emerged again with the media and political reaction to the Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s critics accused him of appeasing Putin and even of committing treason for not doing enough to defend American interests and for being far too solicitous to the Russian leader. They regarded that as an unforgivable offense because Russia supposedly poses a dire threat to the United States. Hostile pundits and politicians charged that Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. elections constituted an attack on America akin to Pearl Harbor and 9-11.

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Trump’s supplicant behavior, opponents contended, stood in shameful contrast to the behavior of previous presidents toward tyrants, especially toward the Kremlin’s threats to America and the West. They trotted out Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech and his later demand that Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall as examples of how Trump should have acted.

The problem with citing such examples is that they applied to a different country: the Soviet Union. Too many Americans act as though there is no meaningful difference between that entity and Russia. Worse still, U.S. leaders have embraced the same kind of uncompromising, hostile policies that Washington pursued to contain Soviet power. It is a major blunder that has increasingly poisoned relations with Moscow since the demise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) at the end of 1991.

One obvious difference between the Soviet Union and Russia is that the Soviet governing elite embraced Marxism-Leninism and its objective of world revolution. Today’s Russia is not a messianic power. Its economic system is a rather mundane variety of corrupt crony capitalism, not rigid state socialism. The …read more

Source: OP-EDS