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WSJ Editors: FAA Furloughs Are Political Strategy

From the editors of the Wall Street Journal:

Flight Delays as Political Strategy

The FAA furloughs traffic controllers rather than cut other spending.

April 22, 2013

President Obama’s sequester scare strategy has been a political flop, but his government keeps trying. The latest gambit is to force airline flight delays until enough travellers stuck on tarmacs browbeat enough Republicans to raise taxes again.

This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughing each of its air-traffic controllers for one day out of every 10 to achieve roughly $600 million in savings this fiscal year. The White House dubiously claims that the furloughs are required by the sequester spending cuts enacted in 2011.

Capitol Hill Republicans say the White House is free to make other cuts instead. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster suggests the FAA first take a whack at the $500 million it’s spending on consultants, or perhaps the $325 million it blows on supplies and travel.

The FAA is also planning to spends over $470 million this year on grants ‘to make communities more livable.’ (See below.) In fact, the FAA only spends 70% of its budget on payroll. Why can’t it cut from that 30%?

In case there’s any doubt about the President’s ability to prioritize, at least two GOP Senators, Jerry Moran and Roy Blunt, have written bills to clarify Mr. Obama’s authority to make sensible spending decisions. He’s not interested, and Senate Democrats have blocked such reforms. Making smart choices about federal sending would spoil the fun of creating flight delays and then blaming Republicans.

So this week the FAA has managed to turn the first stages of a 5% budget cut into hours of delays at the nation’s airports. The furloughs are landing on air-traffic controllers as much as they are on less vital FAA jobs. Officials at the Department of Transportation, the FAA’s parent bureaucracy, say it would be bad for morale to impose heavier furloughs on the employees who don’t direct airplanes.

And we can’t have the low morale of people getting some extra (eventually paid paid) long weekends.

DOT has also ruled out any reductions in the FAA workforce to achieve the needed savings, along with most other obvious options that a private business would explore.

FAA head Michael Huerta likes to talk about the "difficult choices" he’s making to satisfy the federal sequester’s modest spending restraints. At least that’s what he says when he’s not claiming that the furloughs of air-traffic controllers are unavoidable. Well, which is it? Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is also portraying flight delays as the inevitable result of federal spending limits.

Last week at a Senate hearing Mr. Huerta acknowledged under questioning that, in fact, his agency does have some discretion to prioritize and move funds to higher priorities from lower ones. But DOT claims it has already used this flexibility and still can’t avoid cuts to air-traffic control.

Not that taxpayers should have a lot of confidence in the ability of Messrs. Huerta and LaHood to prioritize. On Monday, as flight delays were hitting travelers at airports around the country due to these allegedly unavoidable cuts, the top story on the Department of Transportation’s website announced a $474 million grant program that promises to "make communities more livable and sustainable."

How about awarding grants to the control towers at Hartsfield and O’Hare? The community of air travelers would likely agree that sitting in a departure lounge at Newark Airport may be livable, but it’s not sustainable.

Mr. LaHood’s website on Monday also announced that "DOT launches Women in Transportation History online exhibit." No doubt all the female passengers waiting for a flight out of LAX will be ecstatic.

As we have asked before, what other President of the US has ever purposefully punished the American people to try to get his way?

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “WSJ Editors: FAA Furloughs Are Political Strategy”

  1. Enthalpy says:

    Democrats as a.. holes… The never ending story…

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