When school districts’ override elections fail, sports and music and other popular programs are the first to be eliminated. Another override election is then scheduled as soon as the law permits. This hoary but effective tactic is usually sufficient to get voters to do the “right thing.”
That’s one tactic employed by all levels of government to get the electorate to comply with what is deemed best for it. Of course, there are variations. President Obama’s use of the sequester is the most recent.
The sequester was born when Republicans balked at more tax increases. The president endorsed the sequester believing that Republicans would never allow draconian defense cuts and he would get his tax hikes. When that didn’t happen, the administration determined to make the sequester as onerous as possible. According to this playbook, Republicans would get the blame for not caving in to begin with, and Obama would not only get his new taxes, he would have taken a giant step toward defeating Republicans in 2014 and getting the House back.
Holding the traveling public hostage is one part of the administration’s political gamesmanship. The only question is whether the Obama strategy will work. Or will travelers see the idiocy of a mandated $600 million cut — under 5% — in the FAA’s nearly $16 billion budget, necessitating furloughs of 10% of air controllers and the closure of 100 low-activity control towers? FAA hostages will have plenty of time to think about it during waits of two hours or more at airports across the country. Perhaps some will recall this is the same administration that eliminated popular White House tours and said the sequester made them do it.
The Heritage Action blog provides FAA budget figures: “The FAA requested $15.172 billion for FY2013, but the Continuing Resolution – passed last fall – locked in funding levels of $16.668 billion. The FAA’s sequester hit will be just $669 million, which means their post-sequester funding level of $15.999 billion will still be above their original request. You read that right! The FAA is getting more than they need – more than they asked for – even after sequester cuts.”
One commentator called the ploy, “a classic example of the ‘Washington Monument’ strategy of trying to prevent budget cuts by proposing the worst possible method of coping — rather than finding 5% of the budget that could be eliminated or deferred with the least harm.”
It is unbelievable that the FAA could not find areas to cut that are less critical to customer convenience and safety. Aviation analyst Michael Boyd, of Boyd Group International doesn’t believe it. He said the move is “engineered to be as difficult as possible for the consumer…. This is frankly a political program.”
If, God forbid, a serious accident should occur as a result of this “political program” the president and his party will be accountable. As the WSJ observed in a recent editorial, controllers account for 15,000 out of the FAA’s 31,000 employees. “The White House could keep the controllers on duty simply by allocating more furlough days to these non-essential workers.”
Other critics point out that passengers pay significant fees every time they fly that are supposed “to fund everything from customs inspections to TSA pat-downs.”
Our fees have not been cut one penny, yet we’re being threatened with draconian cuts,” said Charlie Leocha, the director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, an advocacy group for airline travel. According to the Alliance,” travel taxes and fees fund nearly 80 percent of the flying-related costs incurred by the Federal Aviation Administration and DHS. In 2012, passenger taxes generated $3.8 billion for DHS, with the money funding TSA security and customs and immigration controls.
But prioritizing sequester cuts to be least burdensome to the public is not in the administration’s playbook. Legislation to clarify Obama’s authority to make spending decisions was sponsored by GOP senators Jerry Moran and Roy Blunt. Senate Democrats blocked the bills. Apparently the president also is unconcerned with the adverse effects of airport delays on the already turgid economy.
Ex-Clinton counsel Seth Waxman said that the FAA should be able to “pick and choose how to reduce spending within the air traffic organization activity so as to minimize the adverse effects of sequestration on the FAA’s core mission priorities.”
Waxman doesn’t get it. The FAA made its choices and they are not intended “to minimize the adverse effects” on travelers.