Amtrak is notorious for not being able to cover the costs of its service. Now we learn that it costs Amtrak $16 to make a hamburger for customers. That alone is ridiculous. But that’s not all. Amtrak only charges customers $9.50 for the burger. And thus, Amtrak’s food service is a giant money pit — having lost more than 3/4 of a BILLION over 10 years. So why doesn’t Amtrak contract out its catering? Josh Barro, writing for bloomberg.com, explains what was said at a congressional hearing:
Nick Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has one answer. He says Amtrak food service jobs are well-paying, and we shouldn’t eliminate them, even if the food service is expensive and terrible. “It’s a whopper of an idea, trading good-paying jobs for cheaper hamburgers,” said Rahall.
And there you have it. There are members of Congress who wrongly believe that the purpose of government is to provide jobs at all costs. They are wrong of course. The purpose of government is to provide services. In order to deliver those services, government hires or contracts out for labor and expertise. As long as our elected bodies are dominated by people who believe the former — and they exist in both political parties — government will grow and the deficit and debt will lead us further into an uncertain future.