By now, anyone who has more than a passing interest in aviation knows that we are still waiting for an FAA Reauthorization Bill. I’ve lost count of the “short-term” extensions, but I’m pretty sure it was the 20th that just expired. Without an extension or a real fully-fleshed out Reauthorization Bill, the FAA isn’t able to collect Airport and Airway Trust Fund taxes. So now we have a furlough situation of unknown duration for 4,000 FAA employees.
Those facing furloughs are victims of a partisan stalemate over several relatively minor issues that have stymied passage of a long-term FAA reauthorization bill. Among those issues: Ground rules for unionization in the airline and railroad industries, and funding levels for subsidized air service to small towns.
Ground rules for unionization…the sticking point there is if you don’t vote, your vote doesn’t count. Right-wingers want your non-vote to count as a no. Funny, I wonder how many of them would have been elected to office if all the votes that didn’t occur during their election counted as a no. Apathy does not and should not equate to a negative vote; it’s simply apathy…and a completely different issue.
To further complicate matters, the debate over the debt ceiling could create widespread reductions-in-force, not just in the aviation arena, but government-wide.
Meanwhile, any agreement tied to the lifting the ceiling could require significant cuts in agency operating budgets. How large such cuts would be, exactly where they would fall and when they would take effect all are unknown at this point. The current fiscal year now has just two months remaining, so most if not all of the cuts likely would fall in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, and in later years.
Large-scale cuts could cause agencies to impose large-scale furloughs. At some point, agencies might decide they need to lay off employees, which would invoke a separate process called reductions in force.
Smaller government does not equate to better service and efficiency, it just means greater frustration and longer delays for the users (whether it is the person on Medicare who needs questions answered or the newly bereaved spouse applying for Social Security benefits) and ultimately higher costs for services. On the aviation side, can you say user fees?
And this time, user fees are not simply an agenda being shoved at us by another piece of our own industry the way the airlines came at us a few years ago. This time it’s coming from the folks we sent to Washington to represent us. The reason’s clear. The nation’s in debt up to it’s ass and politicians are looking to pounce on some one group that can ante up some cash … and most likely not fight back too hard. And this time, general aviation is squarely in their sights.
Let’s look at this for a moment: “politicians are looking to pounce on some one group that can ante up some cash … and most likely not fight back too hard.” We’ve got a serious number of politicians that won’t consider raising taxes on the individuals who make millions and billions of dollars per year (and who were significantly responsible for getting us in this mess to begin with), but it’s absolutely okay to them to consider cutting services and aid to the poverty-stricken and middle class America in a politically ideological debate. Guess we’re just not important enough to them…or their political reelection coffers.
So while we’ve got those employees furloughed, we’ve also just put out of work a number of those in the private sector…most notably the construction industry who were building new air traffic control towers. Oh, by the way, it’s entirely possible that there are clauses in all of those contracts that require the FAA to pay penalties for THEIR delays in the projects. I certainly hope it doesn’t come under an “Act of God” clause – I’d hate for some of our elected leaders to have more of a God complex than they already do.
I recently watched portions of a PBS production on Prohibition. One thing that struck me was the “unintended consequences” that resulted because of the Eighteenth Amendment. Those that were certain that the righteous morality of outlawing alcohol would create a more socially responsible America were instead responsible for creating a downturn in morality in the country.
Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun, encouraged neighborhood gangs to become national crime syndicates, permitted government officials to bend and sometimes even break the law, and fostered cynicism and hypocrisy that corroded the social contract all across the country…
The film raises vital questions that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago – about means and ends, individual rights and responsibilities, the proper role of government and finally, who is — and who is not — a real American.
I’m not an economist, but I certainly can see that the actions of Congress are hurting far more people than they’re helping by not raising the debt ceiling. Which now begs the question, are we facing unintended consequences by those who refuse to raise the debt ceiling or are they, in reality, intended consequences by those in power and the American public isn’t seeing the forest for the trees?