StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Slowing Air Traffic Is Serious Sequester Hardball From The White House

22 Feb 2013
Posted by Stan Collender

The Clinton administration didn't play as much hardball as it could have during the 1995 and 1996 federal shutdowns because it decided that the air traffic control system was a critical government activity.

Doing the opposite -- and it definitely was a discretionary presidential decision rather than a legislated mandate -- likely would have ended the shutdowns much faster because of the outcry when planes were grounded and everything from Fed Ex to business trips to honeymoons were affected. The economic damage and anger would have been immediate and intense.

The Obama White House appears to be going in a very different direction with the sequester. As this story by Matthew Wald in today's New York Times shows, not only will the air traffic control system be included if the sequester occurs, the administration clearly is not reluctant in the slightest about making it clear that flights will be canceled or seriously delayed...or both if the sequester happens.

The article also makes it clear that a federal function that didn't exist in 95-96  -- the Transportation Security Administration and the security screenings it conducts at airports -- will also be seriously affected.

This is why I keep saying that the politics of the sequester will change almost immediately after it starts. Slowdowns at U.S... airports, national parks closed one day a week, slower-than-usual tax refunds -- all of which are likely to happen starting on March 1 -- almost change how voters view the situation and the pressure on members of Congress to deal with it.

Hardball = Fear Mongering

The President is blowing the situation out of proportion to fire up the lunatic left, just like he has in every false emergancy he has created during hsi administration.

There is no need to attack air traffic control when there is plenty of waste in other areas of the budget to cut first. But the Demcorats know that if cuts are made where they should be... NO ONE WOULD NOTICE. And that does not help their agenda to grow government so they need to make the cuts where it hurts the middle and lower income communities.



The entire month of MARCH will all be about how BAD the sequester is and what is the Congress doing to stop it.

arphaxad, it helps to be

arphaxad, it helps to be informed before you comment.

the sequester was designed to be a blunt instrument to encourage congress to do something better.

and because it was designed as a blunt instrument, the impact is...blunt!

and republicans voted in favor that blunt instrument.

in short, your comment is a typical example of right-wing thought untethered to reality.

Don't cut you, don't cut me...

To paraphrase a seasoned politician from long ago:

"Don't cut you, don't cut me, cut that man behind the tree."

Any spending that benefits someone else is wasteful spending but any spending [tax expenditures included] that benefits me is a crucial investment in the public good.

On a personal level, whenever my associates complain about wasteful spending, I tend to bring up the Marine Corp, a expensive and redundant branch of the armed services. The Marines have not stormed a hostile beach since June 1950, 63 years ago. There is little or nothing that the Corp does that the other other branches do not also do. In fact, Robert Gates commented in 2010 that the Army had become just like the Marines and the Marines had become just like the Army.

There is one thing the

There is one thing the marines bring. The president is in charge of the marines and does not need congressional approval for sending the marines out for a period of time. The other branches, congress can block their deployment.

I am not sure the

I am not sure the administration really has any choice in the matter. There is no flexibility in the cuts and they are supposed to go down to a very low level in the budget process. Thus, there will be 8% or so less funds to pay air traffic controllers. Their pay can't be cut, and so they will have to work 8% less.

Airports and the sequester

Actually, the TSA baggage searchers and the air traffic controllers would appear to be excellent candidates for the "user pays" principle, i.e., their cost should be included in the prices which fliers pay for their tickets.

user fees at the airport

I suspect that the self described Republicans wouldn't like airport user fees, but Republican politcal operatives might. They like shifting the tax burden, especially when it isn't decribed as a tax.

Airports and the Sequester

Actually, it was when Jimmy Carter brought Alfred Kahn on board back in the late '70s that some solid economic reasoning was applied to air transport issues.
Perhaps for those Democrats or Republicans looking for additional government revenues without being accused of raising taxes, user fees might be a useful approach, as well as sound economic policy. (User fees do not "shift" the "tax" burden, they charge for specific services delivered to discrete clients, such as airlne passengers.)It would be interesting to know to what extent government and airline ticket fees are already covering the TSA and traffic controller costs at airports.
There is an ample economics literature on this topic, and user fees are discussed from a lawyer's perspective by Jasper Cummings, Jr., in "User fees versus taxes" (2011).

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