Transport Secretary Ray LaHood has created a national crisis from the need to save $200 million. President Obama and Rahm Emanuel must be smiling broadly. In February 2013, LaHood promised there was no way around scaling back air traffic control staff if sequesters were enacted. Last week he affirmed that “We cannot avoid furloughs.” They’ve had 2 months to plan a robust disaster. The FAA’s plan is to have each air traffic controller furloughed one day in ten – causing 6,700 flights to arrive late each day – the equivalent air transport disaster of two hurricanes attacking the nation simulataneously. If politicians didn’t do it, this man-caused disaster would be called terrorism.
The $200 million is an inconsequential rounding error in Federal government spending of $3.5 trillion. Feds spill more coffee that that each week. Citizens Against Government Waste, Heritage Foundation, and Huffington Post each documented obviously wasteful federal spending. If our Administration or Congress chose to halt some of those horrors, the FAA’s budget hole would be plugged in an instant.
In April 2013, Congress’s own Government Accountability Office teed up 283 pages of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication under the gaze and budgetary control of Congress and the Administration. One GAO example shows billions of dollars each year can be saved by cutting back on the 23 agencies spawning hundreds of similar or duplicative renewable energy projects. GAO shows that EPA and Department of Agriculture administer $4.3 billion per year in water programs prone to duplication. California alone has accepted but not spent $455 million in EPA funds for water projects – the EPA could rescind the money and let FAA run air traffic control at full tilt for two years.
If faced with a similar challenge, consumers would cut back on wasteful or low priority plans and reallocate spending to avoid disasters. Why won’t the Administration and Congress? Don’t listen to any of their legal twaddle – these politicians do unconscionable things with the public’s money any time they want. Politics is the real explanation for why the Administration and Congress let the air travel disaster proceed. The Administration wants Republicans blamed for the pain and will not acknowledge unnecessary programs since that would weaken the government’s reputation and need for continued high spending. Republicans don’t trust the Administration to choose priorities for imposing the sequester cuts. Voters know there’s plenty of waste and overspending. Washington’s intransigence drives them nuts.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research