Jewish World Review August 8, 2011 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5771
Politics again takes precedence over common sense
By Dan K. Thomasson
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Just when you think Congress has shown a smidgen of responsibility by deciding it would be bad for the nation to default on its debt obligations, the same people who brought you weeks of indigestion over that issue have let politics once again take precedence over common sense.
Before heading out the door for the August recess, the good solons of the Upper Chamber refused to take action to end a stalemate that has the Federal Aviation Administration reeling from lack of money. The upshot of that disgrace will be at least another month and maybe longer of 4,000 FAA employee layoffs, some 70,000 idled subcontract workers and 40 safety inspectors who are being asked of all things to stay on and fund their own jobs including travel. Here's an idea. Perhaps the members of Congress should give up their pay for a month.
All of this is has been the result of Democrats who believe Republicans are trying to undercut unions and Republicans who see the subsidization of rural airports as a waste of money and have decided to use these lives as shuttlecocks in a political badminton contest. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has assured those who fly that the whole mess will not impact their safety. That, of course, is good news, but might not be all that accurate if one considers that runways overseen by the now hard-pressed inspectors are important to safety. Air traffic controllers, who are funded differently, will stay on the job.
Those furloughed are only the tips of that iceberg. The lack of funds has a ripple effect shutting down construction projects at 200 airports around the nation. In addition, the loss of ticket revenue from this debacle is expected to be a cool $1 billion when every penny is needed to offset the debt. Cutting off the rural subsidy would save $16 million while not acting is costing $30 million a day. That's hardly a fair trade.
Who's to blame? Pick your huckleberry. When temporary financing for the FAA expired last month halting the collection of taxes on airline tickets, the House passed another stop-gap bill to extend funding to mid September and continue the taxation to finance most of the agency's expenses. But that temporary legislation included shutting off the subsidy for 16 rural airports, some in the states of prominent Senate Democrats like Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Enter Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, chairman of the committee that oversees the FAA, who demanded that the spending bill not include the provision on rural airports or anything else -- a clean bill as it were.
Republicans contend the rural passenger subsidization is wasteful. The Democrats charge the rural airport issue is being used as diversion from GOP efforts to disallow a new regulation that would make it easier for unions to organize airlines. The National Mediation Board adopted the regulation that union certification could come about through a majority of those voting and not a majority of all employees as had been the case. A bill passed by the Republican House reauthorizing FAA operations would change the new regulation by counting those not voting as 'no' votes.
There seems little question that the House under the direction of Republican Transportation committee chairman John Mica included the Ely, Nev., and Montana airport in a sophomoric effort to stick it to Reid and Baucus. At the same time, there is no doubt that the mediation board's new regulation benefits organized labor mostly allied with Democrats. Got the picture?
What we have at the expense of all those employees and subcontractors of FAA and the potential threat to the public safety is one of those increasingly frequent partisan donnybrooks in this divided government. These are separate issues that should have been treated that way.
So before you get all warm and fuzzy about the prospects of a newly responsible, grown-up Congress, don't be fooled. If you're flying and wonder about all that parked equipment on half finished projects at the local airport, you will realize how fragile that detente really is. Then probably you should think what the next 16 months until election are going to be like and consider moving -- to Australia.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.
• 08/04/11: In modern society, a distinct pattern of senselessness
• 07/29/11: A debt solution: Throw the rascals out, all of them
• 07/21/11: Campaign finance reform --- you're kidding, right!?
• 07/08/11: Casey Anthony jury did its job
• 07/05/11: Nailing a prominent figure or institution should come at a heavy risk and an even greater price if proven a hoax
© 2011, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE