Airline and Highway Users Pay for Themselves

The Usual Airline & Highway Subsidy Canard

Comment on Amtrak’s Wifi Failures (http://www.economist.com/comment/554887#comment-)

Glenn Fleischman (comment 1) has it wrong. Airlines in the US are subsidized only to a minimal degree. Their costs are paid by fares, ticket taxes and landing fees (including airport construction costs), all of which are paid by users. There is a small subsidy from the Department of Transportation that assists in air traffic control and that could be easily erased by a modest increase in fees (or more efficient use of existing revenues, which some have argued can be notoriously wastefully spent at the local airport level.

As for highways, not only do drivers and truckers pay virtually the entire cost of intercity highway transportation with their fuel taxes (legally dedicated and levied on fuel only), but they spin off $10 billion or so in transit subsidies.

It would be quite appropriate for Amtrak to be financed like the commercial airline and highway systems. But, of course, if we were to place special taxes on Amtrak for the purpose of its operations, even fewer would ride. Enough with the subsidy canard.

Wendell Cox
Principal, Demographia, St. Louis
Former Member, Amtrak Reform Council

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