Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
Latest posts by Jim Lakely (see all)
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If you flew somewhere this week, or know anyone who flew this week, you’ve likely either experienced or heard about flight delays due to President Obama’s cynical strategy to make the sequester as painful as possible for everyone.
Below are three excellent pieces on what is going on here, one from The Wall Street Journal, one from Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara in the American Spectator, and one from Chris Edwards of Cato’s DownsizingGovernment.org in the Daily Caller. Perhaps this purposeful pain and inconvenience to travelers will backfire and the public will come to advocate privatizing a cherished public agency. The arguments are compelling.
I recommend you read all three pieces, but on to some excerpts.
From the WSJ comes “The FAA Strikes Again, the FAA Brags: The bureaucracy revels in its own failures“:
The Federal Aviation Administration claims the sequester spending cuts are forcing it to delay some 6,700 flights a day, but rarely has a bureaucracy taken such joy in inconveniencing the public.
Though the FAA says it is strapped for cash, the air traffic control agency managed to find the dollars to update its interactive “command center” tool on its website so passengers can check if their airports are behind schedule due to what it calls sequester-related “staffing” problems. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn noticed this rare case of FAA technological entrepreneurship and fired off a letter Wednesday protesting what he called the agency’s “full blown media rollout” to hype the flight delays.
From Peter Ferrara, who is, as usual, quite passionate in “Fight Back! Privatize the FAA!: The flight-delaying Obama crowd is really asking for it this time“:
If you are an air traveler this week, you might get a dose of how it feels to be deliberately abused by your government to score political points. President Obama and the Democrat Party are so adamantly opposed to any semblance of cuts in government spending that they cannot abide the sequester that cuts only 2% of federal spending, not out of actual spending, but out of the growth in spending, over the next 10 years. …
The portion of those cuts that the Obama Administration specified apply to the FAA is $600 million. They could cut instead the $500 million the FAA is spending on consultants, the $325 million it is spending on supplies and travel, and the Transportation Department’s new $474 million grant program “to make communities more livable and sustainable,” as reported in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Republicans have also already passed legislation in the House, and introduced it in the Senate, to give President Obama complete discretion to make the 2% cuts in spending growth out of the most wasteful federal spending to be found.
But President Obama and the Democrat majority Senate oppose that. They don’t want to make the sequester cuts out of government waste, or out of counterproductive federal spending. They are still on their original plan to get the Republicans to back down from the modest sequester spending restraint, by making those cuts as painful for the public as possible.
So pursuant to that plan, the Obama Administration is trying to manipulate the public by imposing artificial, unnecessary, abusive air travel delays, hoping the easily fooled, Twitter voters will rise in anger to force the Republicans to reverse the sequester cuts, and increase taxes yet again, after all. If this was still the real America of free and independent people, they would rise in fury instead and demand that the President be impeached for such abusive, dishonest manipulation of the public he is supposed to be serving. What President Obama is doing this week is an attack on the American people, for cynical political gain.
But the more fundamental solution is to eliminate the potential for such political manipulation and abuse through the long overdue, and increasingly urgent reform of privatizing the FAA. Incorporate the whole organization into a private, for profit, D.C. corporation with all the stock held by the federal government to start. Then auction off the stock to the highest bidder. Use the funds to pay down the national debt.
It would be up to the new FAA Corp. to negotiate its own contracts with each airport for air traffic control services. But there is no need for this to be a monopoly. Each airport would be free to contract with any alternative competitor that would arise. That competitive market would produce the best service at the least cost.
Moreover, air travel would then be entirely free of Washington political manipulation. It would no longer be a political football, with James Carville laughing on TV how the Democrats are going to manipulate the public by abusing it to get their way.
Finally we have Chris Edwards, who notes that our Canadian friends have privatized their air traffic control system … and we don’t see planes falling from the sky, just falling prices for air travel:
The government wouldn’t be very good at running Apple Computer, and so it’s no surprise that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has major problems running the computer-intensive ATC business. To run smoothly and efficiently, our ATC system should be given independence from the government. We should privatize the system, as Canada has done very successfully. …
Canada provides an excellent model for U.S. reforms. Canada’s ATC system is run by the nonprofit corporation Nav Canada, which is separate from the government. Like any private business, it raises revenues from its customers to cover its operational costs and capital investments. The company’s financial statements for 2012 show revenues and expenses of $1.2 billion, with $125 million allocated to capital expenditures. Unlike the U.S. system, Nav Canada is self-supporting and not subsidized.
The 1996 privatization of Canada’s ATC system replaced a government ticket tax with direct charges on aircraft operators for services provided. Nav Canada’s $1.2 billion in revenues comes from charges for en route and terminal services. Thus, airlines get charged for flying through Canadian airspace and for landing at Canadian airports. For example, an airline flying an Airbus A330 from New York to Frankfurt through Canadian airspace would be charged $1,756.
A privatized U.S. ATC system would be able to raise the revenue it needed to fund its operations free of the central planning that comes from politicians. As a private company with a monopoly, there would be a concern that the costs and charges of a privatized FAA would rise excessively. But that has not happened in Canada. Indeed, Nav Canada’s customer charges have actually risen more slowly than inflation over the past decade. …
America has always been a global leader in aviation, which makes it all the more unfortunate that we are stuck with a backwards, government-run ATC system. We should have the best ATC system in the world, so it’s time to privatize the FAA and give the Canadians some competition for all those prestigious Eagle Awards.
Read them all, and share with friends. Maybe something good will come from the sequester after all — genuinely less government. Privatize the FAA!