Despite Declining Ridership, Amtrak Execs Got $2.3M In Taxpayer-Funded Bonuses Last Year

P. Gardner Goldsmith | August 10, 2022
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Similar to horror tales of vampires -- preying on victims year after year, century after century -- government parasitism, once started, never seems to end.

Case in point, the 1971-born, Nixon-fathered, Amtrak, which, itself, came after the weakening of passenger rail caused by another federal boondoggle, the Interstate Highway scheme. Amtrak never has turned a profit, and, despite repeated federal subsidies, its losses recently have worsened – yet, a new report reveals that in 2021, numerous Amtrak big-wigs received BONUSES totaling $2.3 million.

The New York Times reports:

“Amtrak’s top executives received six-figure incentive bonuses in 2021, their biggest payouts in years, despite the service’s lackluster financial performance and weak ridership…”

In fact, Amtrak execs not only got more “bonus” money, even as their failures worsened, MORE execs got the bonuses.

Related: Buttigieg Says He's Qualified to Run the Dept. of Transportation Because He's Ridden a Train 'More Than Once' | MRCTV

Oh, and the information wasn’t readily available to American taxpayers. The NYT had to get it via a Freedom of Information Act filing…

“The compensation data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showed that annual incentive payouts made to Amtrak’s senior leaders have grown significantly in recent years. Nine top executives received bonuses exceeding $200,000 in the 2021 fiscal year, up from six executives in 2019.” 

Among those nine would be CEO Stephen Gardner, who has been floating around the vampire rail system for years.

“Stephen Gardner, who became Amtrak’s chief executive this year, has received more than $766,000 in short-term incentive bonuses since 2016…”

Evidently, those “incentive bonuses” haven’t yielded the results the Congress-cats desired, because, as Jeff Davis writes for, the combined operating losses for the federally-created rail system went from $29 million in 2019 to $789 million in 2020, to $1.08 billion for 2021.”

Yeah. Great response to the “incentive bonus” the feds made us help fund. But that’s not all!

He writes:

“Those losses have been covered by $3.7 billion in emergency COVID funding provided by Congress in fiscal years 2020 and 2021…”

Let’s ride the information rails a bit longer, to take in more of this wonderful scenery. Thanks to, we see:

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner has received more than $766,000 in short-term bonuses since 2016, leading the company. Gardner became the company’s president in December 2020 and its CEO in January of this year, following the unexpected retirement of Bill Flynn just 21 months into a term expected to last at least five years [see “Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn to retire,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 16, 2021].  Eleanor Acheson, executive vice president and general counsel & corporate secretary is next at almost $727,000. Acheson, at Amtrak since 2007, leads the company’s law department.”

Offers the NYT:

“Last year’s payouts came as the federal government made its largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak started operating in 1971. As part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed in November, Congress set aside $66 billion for the rail sector, a third of it specifically for Amtrak, which has for years called for greater investment to update, modernize and expand passenger rail service in the United States.”

Nice euphemisms.


Last I knew, an investment was voluntary, based on one’s own preferences, needs, and expectations of return.

And, according to the New York Times, “Congress set aside,” that cash. It didn’t TAKE IT from us and GIVE IT to those with whom we decided not to freely contract for service – at least, that’s the impression the NYT seems to impart.

In fact, the DC vampires not only sucked-up our cash and gave oodles to those aforementioned employees of Amtrak, they subsidized those few riding the parasitic metal worms, even as the system could not turn a profit – again… as always.

As Christopher Westley wrote in 2002, for the Mises Institute:

“Private firms, when faced with such performance, simply shut down, freeing up their assets to others who think they can use them more efficiently. 

Not so with government production. Amtrak’s losses are socialized. Although American Airlines recently announced a major reorganization in response to mounting losses, Amtrak has no intention--or incentive--to reform itself because it is free from normal market profit-and-loss concerns.”

The system is unprofitable, not sanctioned by the US Constitution, inefficient, caters to special interests, and funded through the unethical act of taxation.

Yet, many normalcy-bias-suffering Americans seem to think that Amtrak is, somehow, a badge of honor, emblematic of patriotism and the American tradition, and they do not call for the end of the government blood-sucking system.

Indefinitely, it may live on, but as these kinds of reports emerge, as people annually get to see the disastrous system in action, more of us can collect the information, judge it along moral grounds, and offer the info to more people.

At least we can gain that small silver lining from the so-called “silver rails” of the Amtrak mess.

Even as the system continues to railroad our rights and earnings.


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