Review & Outlook: Flight Delays as Political Strategy – WSJ.com
President Obama’s sequester scare strategy has been a political flop, but his government keeps trying. The latest gambit is to force airline flight delays until enough travellers stuck on tarmacs browbeat enough Republicans to raise taxes again.
This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughing each of its air-traffic controllers for one day out of every 10 to achieve roughly $600 million in savings this fiscal year. The White House dubiously claims that the furloughs are required by the sequester spending cuts enacted in 2011.
Capitol Hill Republicans say the White House is free to make other cuts instead. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster suggests the FAA first take a whack at the $500 million it’s spending on consultants, or perhaps the $325 million it blows on supplies and travel.
In case there’s any doubt about the President’s ability to prioritize, at least two GOP Senators, Jerry Moran and Roy Blunt, have written bills to clarify Mr. Obama’s authority to make sensible spending decisions. He’s not interested, and Senate Democrats have blocked such reforms. Making smart choices about federal sending would spoil the fun of creating flight delays and then blaming Republicans.
So this week the FAA has managed to turn the first stages of a 5% budget cut into hours of delays at the nation’s airports. The furloughs are landing on air-traffic controllers as much as they are on less vital FAA jobs. Officials at the Department of Transportation, the FAA’s parent bureaucracy, say it would be bad for morale to impose heavier furloughs on the employees who don’t direct airplanes. DOT has also ruled out any reductions in the FAA workforce to achieve the needed savings, along with most other obvious options that a private business would explore.
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