Romney: I'd Stop Funding Amtrak, and Have Big Bird With Ads

Tuesday, January 03, 2012 - 12:47 PM

Mitt Romney Addressing Iowa Voters (photo: Romney campaign)

In his final rally before caucus day, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney took time to say he'd cut Amtrak.

"Amtrak ought to stand on its own feet or its own wheels or whatever you'd say," Romney told a raucous crowd of several hundred at the Competitive Edge warehouse in Clive, Iowa, on Monday night.

This final speech is part of what's called a candidate's "closing arguments" to voters.

"I've got to balance the budget.  I gotta cut spending," said Romney, sounding about as folksy and riled up as he's ever been, as he heads to the caucuses in what looks like a no-lose situation:  he either wins, or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul wins, which mean Romney wins, because neither Paul or Santorum is expected to do well beyond Iowa.

Amtrak has had its highest ridership ever, but at the same time, it's been a favorite political punching bag for Republicans. (Though House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica recently had a change of heart, sort of.)  The federal government's annual subsidy is about $1.4 billion. The federal budget is about $3.5 trillion.

"I like the fact that my grand kids can watch Big Bird on TV," Romney added. "I think that’s wonderful, but because they don’t have advertising the government has to put in a check and I don’t think that’s right. So we’re going to have Big Bird with advertising probably because I don’t want to borrow money from China!"

(Special thanks to Anna Sale of for sending us the tape)

Listen to the relevant portion of his speech below.

Here's a transcript:

Now I’ve also got the balance the budget, I gotta cut spending, I gotta cap federal spending and then I’ve got to balance the budget now how do you go about doing that? let me tell you how I do that (unintelligible interjection)…My view is this: what you do to get our budget in line is you say this: you take all of the programs the federal government has and you say which of these programs is so critical that we gotta have it? And those things we keep but those programs that don’t pass the following test we got to get rid of.

And this is my test: is this program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from china to pay for it?

Yells NO

And on that basis we’re going to get rid of some programs, even some we like.

Now the easy ones we can get rid of, like  this one, this one I’ll get rid of on day one

Let’s get rid of Obama care, I’ll get rid of that right away.


And there are some other things, look Amtrak ought to stand on its own feet or its own wheels or whatever you’d say. And I like the National Endowment for the Arts. And the National Endowment for the Humanities,  but I’m not willing to borrow money from China to pay for it.

I like the fact that my grandkids can watch Big Bird on TV.  I think that’s wonderful, but because they don’t have advertising the government has to put in a check and I don’t think that’s right. So we’re going to have Big Bird with advertising probably because I don’t want to borrow money from China!



You guys, I just don’t think it’s moral for us as a nation to borrow money knowing that my generation will never pay it pack, and the next generation will have to pay those burdens.  It’s wrong.  We have to live within our means, and finally get America on track to a balanced budget and I will do it!





Comments [9]


Thank you Steve for wanting my husband to lose the job he has had for 23 years.

Aug. 24 2012 09:15 AM

I completely agree with Romneys stance on Amtrak. I've worked closely with Amtrak and I understand what a huge waste of tax payer money that it is. It is always late and never ever customer friendly. I hope Mr Romney finally gets rid of these railroad bullies known as Amtrak

Apr. 23 2012 02:12 PM

You want to take government money away from something that actually helps the poor and reduces pollution??? Why not take it away from corn which leads to obesity and poor health because they have so much corn they have to put it in EVERYTHING and change it's structure with enzymes which probably leads to all kinds of diseases because our bodies don't know what it is and how to deal with it.

Jan. 11 2012 11:16 AM

Romney is clueless.
By his logic, we should shut down roads and highways because they don't pay for themselves, either.
What a moron!!
On the other hand, he was a big supporter of the MBTA.

Jan. 07 2012 02:54 PM
Eric McClure

I sure hope Mitt Romney is coming with some better ideas than selling ads on Sesame Street.

Jan. 04 2012 11:00 PM
B. L. Oviator


You say, "...the fact that the American people have...chosen Amtrak over cars more in the last decade than ever before...."

You are aware that the ratio of Amtrak trips to car trips is 1:15,000, right? You know that the average American takes a round trip on an Amtrak train once every 22 years, don't you?

Romney's no fool. He knows that, for every Amtrak fan who votes against him, there will by 15,000 taxpayers shouting "Right on!"

Jan. 04 2012 10:57 PM

Wow, the hypocrisy of Romney is breathtaking.

If we start removing some subsidies, let's remove subsidies on EVERYTHING! Start with our roads, parking spaces, single-family homes, and oil. Compared to these, Amtrak and PBS are rounding errors.

Jan. 04 2012 06:59 PM

@Willie Green

I get what you mean about it being a mix of things like the onset of cars and cheap oil, but god, if you built your empire on the assumption that you would always have a monopoly in your area (in this case, transportation), was that a *good* decision? People still wanted and continue to want rail service, and if they could've figured out how to deal with the changing market (like shrewd business people do, right?), couldn't they have hung on to their companies and be around today?

Jan. 04 2012 03:42 PM
Willie Green

Amtrak wasn't formed because rich railroad tycoons made bad decisions, Joseph. Private passenger rail service fell into disfavor because in the post-WWII era, Oil was cheap and our Federal Government pursued a deliberate policy of converting our wartime manufacturing capacity to civilian purposes by subsidizing the automotive and airline industries with construction of the Interstate Highway System and Municipal Airports.

We now live in an era when Oil is no longer cheap, and production of automotive and airline fuels is shifting from traditional petroleum resources to inferior and more costly tar-sands and oil shales. Yet the GOP obstructs more fuel efficient passenger rail transportation to maximize revenues for the Oil Industry.

Sadly, Romney and the GOP are no longer capable of governing in the best interests of the American People and broader business community.

Jan. 04 2012 06:47 AM

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