True, except that trains change their operating crews several times on each LD route and have no problem doing that. I wouldn't expect the service crew to remain constant: if I got a new car attendant or cafe attendant, I'd be just fine with that, as long as any concerns or requests I'd made were passed on in a crew briefing (like a relacement train crew does a briefing with the outgoing one and/or with the dispatcher).
People who take OBS jobs, or at least a notable portion of them, probably like their lifestyle, difficult as it may be. Prior to meeting my g/f, I probably would have loved that lifestyle and jumped at the chance to work a LD OBS job. Some of the OBS are gigantic pricks who should never be in a service-industry job. They make up about 10% of Amtrak's LD OBS people, I'd wager. The rest of them are the backbone of Amtrak's long-distance business.
Ask anybody in the car industry. Cutting costs is the most difficult thing in business when it comes to avoiding middle-management excess. Why? Because cutting costs can sometimes reduce pointless expense and excess. It is more likely, however, to cut quality. Imprudent cost cutting has brought the American auto industry to its knees.
If you can remove a worker from the kitchen of a dining car without me, a passenger, noticing, go right ahead. But if the passenger will notice, god forbid you do it. The adjustment on the CONO was a master-stroke, although I would have based it on a Lounge. SDS was an act of peerless idiocy.
Changing OBS along a route would possibly reduce cost mildly. It would probably increase it in the event of late trains. In the end it would barely cut cost in total, while degrading the level of service incredibly. What makes Amtrak's long distance lateness tolerable are the OBS crews. I can enjoy the extra time on the train in the same level of luxury and comfort as the rest of the trip. If the OBS shut down when the crew went dead, it would be horrible.
This is not directed at GML specifically, as I do agree that it's wrong to insinuate that blue-collar workers are somehow less than white-collar middle-management, but I did want to make one comment:
I know it doesn't seem fair to most people that a hard-working janitor or hotel maid can be paid so little while white-collar, college-educated management is paid so much, and I don't necessarily believe that Fortune 500 CEOs are often worth the millions they pay themselves, but the truth is that anyone who's desperate for a job can go to these entry-level, minimum-wage jobs while it takes special talent to cast a vision to run a company effectively. I've been a janitor, a blue-collar laborer, and a middle manager (in a very small company in the service industry--honestly, my job would likely fall into the category your dad would can, but hey, the job was handed to me), and I know several visionary executive-types personally, and I have to say that they're worth their salt (though none of the ones I know makes millions). Although I don't know him, Jim Sinegal of Costco is a great example of a visionary guy and an effective leader who has the humility to draw a fairly small (for a company his size) salary but one that provides a perfectly fine standard of living. But it's precisely those qualities that make him such a good leader and Costco such a well-run company--the greedy executives of the Enrons and Tycos will eventually fall. Just knowing how screwed up government bureaucracy can be, I just can't support government regulating what people are paid. Unions aren't much better. But if a union could negotiate contracts fairly for both the employes and the company and without creating a employee-versus-company mentality, I might have less of a problem with unions. Unfortunately, they're selfish and only look out for their own, to the downfall of the company itself, which ends up hurting the employees by putting them out of work (union contracts with defunct companies do no good). That's the problem I have with unions, not that the workers themselves are not worth it.
First of all, he wasn't my dad. My dad is a psychologist. This was my best-friend's dad. A good CEO is worth his weight in gold. They aren't worth their weight in Platinum, Uranium, diamonds, rubies, or sapphires (which is how some seem to be paid). Without a visionary genius at the helm, a company will not get anywhere. I don't disagree with you.
A good management structure is also important. Even the best CEO can't manage every single worker in a large company. He needs people under him to help, and in really large companies, those people under them need people under them to help too. The larger the company, the more layers of management you need. A person can only manage so much.
The problem is that in far too many situations, there are a lot of things that aren't needed. Cutting jobs amplifies itself, believe it or not. A manager can handle a certain number of people before being overwhelmed. If you cut 300 people from various departments, you can then remove a half dozen or so managers, restructuring the system so that the other managers take the load. If you remove a half dozen managers, you can probably eliminate an upper manager.
These 307 people need things to support them. There are going to be a few secretaries for that group that are now redundant. Fleet managers, logistics people, travel departments, and so on can be made smaller. 320 people cut from the force means 320 less computers. You can remove that expense, and probably a member of your IT staff, as well. Now that you have 321 people no longer working for you, you need 321 peoples worth of less office space. So you can relocate to a smaller building, or derive revenue from renting the unused portion of your current building. Since you are no longer occupying that space, you need less cleaning staff, less security, less maintenance people. You produce less garbage, so your refuse expenses go down.
My friends dad was an extremist, I'll admit. He once told me, "If you have 4 people in a department, and each one is idle for two hours a day, fire one of them." He was also known for cutting out departments entirely and then hiring people to replace them as he saw problems crop up.
He was, however, an intelligent cost cutter, which too many people aren't. If he cut the 4th person, he'd likely give the other three a 15-20% raise. In his mind, he'd still saved between 40 and 55% of the other persons salary, and the remaining workers, while having more work, feel like they are being compensated for it. He hated working around the government, which he saw as an incompetent group of chimps. Were it not for that, he'd probably be an excellent CEO for Amtrak.
I'm suspect that were one to look at one specific moment in time, one could indeed find a brief point(s) where passenger trains made a small profit. But as a whole over the course of time, and pre-Amtrak, moving passengers by train (or any other mode for that matter) has not been profitable. The airlines collectively have barely broken even over the course of time, bus companies come and go and those that remain probably wouldn't remain without help, even if that help is only not having to pay the true value of their passage over our streets and highways.
Trains can be, and have been, profitable. Anything can be- you just charge people for it on a cost-plus basis. Before trains had competition, they probably were very profitable. They didn't need to charge competitive pricing, and in those days, people didn't need to move around so much. Going from New York to Chicago is a needed thing for business sometimes these days. A hundred years ago, the number of people who needed or even perceived a need, to do that were few and far between. There wasn't the belief that even relatively poor people should be able to travel a thousand miles if they wanted to.
Private trains can also be profitable. Auto-Train (the company, not the train) was reasonably profitable. They went out of business because they over-extended and were undercapitalized such that they couldn't handle the immediate costs of a couple of derailments. There are a variety of "land-cruise" trains that make profits, as well.
Offering trains as alternative transportation to, say, an airplane at a comparable price, however, can not inherently be profitable due to the subsidized nature of air and road travel. Were taxpayers not charged for road costs, and instead drivers were charged based upon the actual cost of their traversing the road they were driving on, and airlines not having the various subsidies they have and thus had to charge the actual cost of flying people from A to B, then trains too could be profitable.
People are generally paid by what value they add. So if you are an assembly line worker at an auto plant, you will be paid along the lines of what percentage of work you did in transforming a pile of raw materials into a much more valuable automobile. Talented white-collar managers and CEOs can add quite a bit of value. If a CEO of a large-ish corporation can see how to eliminate waste to help the company's bottom line to the tune of $15M per year, then what a bargain to pay him a one million dollar salary! CEOs having the vision, knowledge and iron will to make these kind of changes are rare, and are paid accordingly.
Talented managers make the company work. There are a lot of people working for companies that, were they fired, the company would continue to function well. If such a person exists, they should be fired. Most large companies are full of them. Especially profitable companies. Profits cover a wide variety of sins. The average company, inherently, does not look at costs when profits are high. In other cases, they would prefer not to. Take Exxon-Mobil. I looked at their balance sheet and did some digging on my own into them.
First of all, their profits last year were heavily under-stated. Not illegally- they were quite legal. But in accounting, there are a dozen places where you can decide to do things in a way that increases or decreases apparent income and profit. A lot of internet companies, looking to show profits on their balance sheets, choose all the increases. Most companies choose some one way, some the other, so it balances out. Exxon-Mobil chose all the profit decreasing methods they could. Had they gone with the most aggressive profit showing methods, their profits would have been about 20% higher last year. Had the chosen it in the middle, the way most companies do, it would have been about 12% higher.
Secondly, they have the most bloated corporate structure I have ever seen in my life. There are about 35 layers of management between the bottom-level white collars and the vice presidents that manage them. The spend about 12 billion dollars a year more than they have to on employment expenses. And I'd imagine that they really don't want those 12 billion to show up on their balance sheets, lest some Americans start a mass-lynching campaign.