Politics and air travel
President Barack Obama and his team don't have to worry about commercial flight delays. Maybe that helped secure the decision to begin furloughing air traffic controllers this week, leading to delays at the nation's airports and the Democrats' finger of blame pointed at tax-averse Republicans.
The administration claims that, because of the sequester-related budget cuts, it has no choice but to furlough all 47,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees, ordering them each to stay home one of every 10 days between now and September. That is, we are told, the only way the agency can achieve the required $500 million in cuts.
It's nonsense, of course.
The agency has refused to consider reducing its work force to help achieve the savings, in areas that would not directly affect air safety. Nope, not a single deputy-assistant to the deputy-assistant can be spared. Not an ounce of fat in the personnel budget.
As for sparing the 15,000 air traffic controllers the furloughs, instead imposing them solely on non-safety-related jobs, well, they've said no to that, too.
Meanwhile Democrats in the Senate have refused to consider legislation that would allow the administration more flexibility in imposing the sequester-related cuts. Offered an escape hatch, they've chosen to wallow in the inconvenience.
Because, of course, it's all about the inconvenience. The inconvenience is what furthers the cause -- another major tax increase.
Forget the impact on the economy when business travel is stalled, airline schedules upended, shipments of inventory delayed or canceled, or when a family heading on a summer trip decides to avoid the hassle and stay home.
According to House Republicans, the FAA's $10 billion operating budget has increased 110 percent since 1996, and includes $2.7 billion in non-personnel costs.
By no means should these cuts cripple the commercial aviation system, but in the interest of scoring political points, they might.