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Devil's Advocate

Trump Proposes 50% Cut to Amtrak Funding (2018-02-12)

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I'm not sure that "put[ting] the management of one's retirement on the responsibility of the employee" is an advantage in general, and I will admit that I'm not a fan of them versus IRAs. In general, I find that a 401(k) manages to take all of the disadvantages of an IRA and a pension plan and roll them into one package. For example, you can only invest in funds that your plan includes...which means that if your employer manages to end up with a bunch of high fee funds, those are all you can pick from and you can't pick (for example) a Vanguard analogue with lower fees. I'd actually be curious as to whether it wouldn't make more sense for some folks to leave the company match "on the table" in the face of substantially higher fees (e.g. given the choice between an S&P index fund in a 401(k) with total fees sitting in the .8-1.0% range and investing your IRA via an S&P fund with fees in the 0.05-0.10% range, how much of a match do you need for this to make sense?).

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Unless you're staying at an employer for decades, even a 401(k) where the only available funds have a cost of 1% would have a hard time leaving a 50-100% match on the table; while I didn't do any hard math even 1% a year would take a number of years to eat up a 50% match (I'd guess 25 years minimum, even with compounding?) That's also assuming you only put in in year 1 and never use the match after that.

 

If the match is very low (10-25% of what you put in) the equation might differ, but usually I've seen it be a reasonable percentage. That being said, anything you aren't matched for should go in an IRA for maximum flexibility.

 

Luckily, my employer offers both a 401(k) with an index fund with fees in the 0.035% range and an ESOP which has generally performed very well since they started it a number of years back (it's roughly 60/40 split with just over 60% owned by the founding family and 40% owned by the employees.)

 

That being said, I'm realizing that we're going way off on a tangent here. If we want more discussion on retirement plans, I (or someone else) can open up a thread in the lounge and I'll move the relevant discussion over there.

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Privatization of passenger rail could probably do better as they would not be saddled with the costs of the pensions to retirees of the railroad lines that Amtrak took service from.

Though I agree with you in principle, most of the legacy railroad employees are probably no longer collecting. It's been 45 years. Not saying they are all gone - far from it - but the numbers are falling.

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So to help fund the FAST Act, the IRS is now going to enforce the provisions that say that having $51,000 in back taxes due means your passport can be revoked, trapping you inside the country.

 

No criminal investigation is required, just the government saying you owe the dough.

 

No problem though, I’m sure California and New York will be setting up sanctuary cities immediately.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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... And Brutus is an honorable man, like are they all, all honorable men :D

 

- Mark Antony as narrated by William Shakespeare

Edited by jis

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... And Brutus is an honorable man, like are they all, all honorable men :D

 

- Mark Antony as narrated by William Shakespeare

 

And some very fine people, on both sides.

 

- Someone more recent. ;)

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Since Amtrak is a Railroad, it by law has to participate in the Railroad Retirement Plan for most of its employees and there is no getting away from it. Moreover, it has to pay more than just for its current and past employees due to some historical reasons.

Well, thankfully I believe the overpayments are slowly going away: if I remember correctly, they're related to people who were employed prior to the formation of Amtrak, and there aren't very many of those left alive any more. So they're paying closer and closer to just for their actual employees now. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong about that.

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I'm going to go back to my standard political pitch: there is no such thing as a "long distance train".

 

The *so called* long-distance trains are simply corridor trains stuck end to end for lower operations costs, with sleeper service on the overnight sections for added profits.

 

(After looking at a lot of numbers, I am entirely sure that sleepers are more profitable than coaches on the Lake Shore Limited, and probably on most of the other Amtrak trains which have sleepers too. One should be restored to the Night Owl.)

 

The only long-distance train which really doesn't fit this model is the Sunset Limited, due to the vacant deserts in West Texas and in Arizona. Arguably the Capitol Limited, with unusually high end-to-end traffic, also doesn't fit this model. All the other so-called long-distance trains very clearly do fit the model of "strings of corridors", and I believe should be thought of in this manner. This does drive my support for certain proposed reroutes -- any reroute which hits a bunch of siginficant downtowns instead of hitting tiny rural towns is likely to improve the route's "corridor" character.

 

As for dining cars... well, you want to feed people if they're on the train too long. How much people care about this (versus brown-bagging it) seems to be regional, though. According to the last set of studies I read, namely the PIPs, the only train which gets high coach patronage in the dining cars (I think it's around half coach passengers) is the Lake Shore Limited. It's evidently the most profitable train to put a dining car on. (So Amtrak, put the dining car back already, ya dopes!) I figure this is because it goes to three areas with high restaurant prices (NY, Chicago, and Boston) -- also three cities where there are a lot of well-to-do people who don't drive -- and so I think it attracts non-price-sensitive riders more than some of the other trains.

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I'll admit I haven't read all of this thread in detail, but I am always struck (as someone not from the US) on Amtrak by the number of staff involved in its operations. On today's Maple Leaf there were three crew, plus the cafe car attendant. I don't know how many people are up front - two? And at major stations there seem to be so many staff involved in the over complicated boarding process. Back in my native UK (though I currently live in Canada), you have one driver, one conductor and maybe one person in the cafe. At major stations you simply make your own way to the train, no need to be herded into lines.

 

Anyway I am sure making staff reductions is incredibly hard.

 

Still enjoy riding the train in the USA despite my many Amtrak gripes, and I do hope the network survives relatively unscathed.

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With a do nothing Congress loaded with Democrat and Republicans, both are the same, who want the path of least resistance, I expect the budget can to be kicked down the road again.

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Given the state of Congress, I am frankly surprised that we are getting anything other than full-year "continuing resolutions".

 

An accurate description is that the Republicans are so divided that they can't agree among themselves on what to do -- except for "tax cuts for the rich" -- and so they need help from Democrats to pass anything. The Democrats have absolutely no reason whatsoever to help them, since for a decade the Republicans in the House have been following an idiotic rule called the "Hastert rule" under which they won't allow a bill to come to the floor if it has majority support but not a majority of Republicans. After seeing dozens of very popular bills blockaded by the Republicans because of this bad attitude, the Democrats have no reason to help the Republicans out, so they aren't going to. But the Republicans can't get their act together because they don't agree with each other on anything (except "tax cuts for the rich".) Hence, gridlock.

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