Republicans, Romney target Amtrak, Railroad Retirement

CLEVELAND, August 31 — At the Republican National Convention in Tampa on August 28, the Republican Party approved a platform that calls for the elimination of funding for Amtrak.

The 62-page document calls for “the federal government to get out of way [sic] and allow private ventures to provide passenger service to the northeast corridor. The same holds true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the country.”

“Adopting a policy that calls for the outright demise of Amtrak is an eye-opener for all railroad workers in the United States,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “The fate of our Railroad Retirement system is tied to steady employment levels in the railroad industry over a long period of time. The sudden elimination of 20,000 Amtrak jobs could likely sound the death knell for Railroad Retirement as we know it.”

The Republican platform comes a few weeks after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney himself called for the elimination of Amtrak. In an interview with Fortune magazine, published on August 15, he said: “There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending,” Romney said. “So first there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

On August 29, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan accepted the Republican party’s nomination as its candidate for Vice President. Ryan is the architect of the infamous Ryan Budget, which would have devastating effects on the retirement security of all active and retired railroad workers. The Ryan budget contains provisions that would:

• Eliminate the “60/30” provision, which allows railroad employees to retire with full benefits at 60 years of age with 30 years of service;

• Eliminate the Railroad Retirement Occupational disability program for rail workers who can no longer perform their railroad duties due to disability;

• Increase the minimum retirement age for railroad workers to 62 years of age with a reduction in benefits;

• Increase the minimum age for spousal annuities with a reduction in benefits;

• Eliminate Medicare as we know it and increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67 with drastically reduced coverage;

• Increase the annual out-of-pocket medical costs paid by railroad retirees and cause the cots of railroad retiree health insurance under GA46000 to soar; and

• Replace Medicare’s guaranteed benefits with a voucher system that is not guaranteed to cover the cost of equivalent care currently provided under Medicare.

“Remember in November,” President Pierce said. “Don’t support politicians who are actively seeking to destroy your pension and way of life.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

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