Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Brainlock



Back to this editorial by The Wall Street Journal from July 21: Gridlock in the Air. These guys deserve Rupert.

”Ms. Blakey has been beseeching anyone who will listen to fix some of the problems with the air-travel system since well before this summer's delays put the overcrowding in the headlines and on politicians' agendas.”

Perhaps the editors at the WSJ are confused. Ms. Blakey is the person that is supposed to fix the problems -- not plead for others to fix them. It isn’t a lack of money that is holding her up from doing her job. Remember that post of mine entitled Buried Gems ? In it I included a link to Senate Report (No. 110-131). There are a lot of interesting things in that report. I’m not going to post the whole report -- that’s the reason Al Gore invented the internet -- but you would think the editors at the WSJ could find it if an old, worn out ex-controller can find it. From the report:

“The Committee recommends a total of $8,761,783,000 for FAA operations. This funding level is $43,209,783 more than the budget request, and $387,566,000 more than the fiscal year 2007 enacted level.”

If Ms. Blakey needs some money to solve the FAA’s problems all she has to do is ask for more. Congress appears to be in a generous mood (as was generally the case in my 25 year career.) Besides, what about all that money she saved by “getting tough” with the controllers. From the editorial:

She has also gotten tough with the air-traffic controllers union, which has placed her on the least-favorite-persons list of a number of Democratic politicians, including New York's Senator Schumer. Specifically, Ms. Blakey last year fought and won a battle with the controllers union over a Clinton-era pay package that was eating up a vast portion of the FAA's budget.

I see. It’s all Clinton’s fault. Not only is that excuse sounding hollow at this late date but it begs the question, why did Ms. Blakey sign a two year extension to that contract if it was so bad (in a Bill Clinton is the root of all evil sort of way.) Is it the money or isn’t it ?

This part was a hoot:

”Ms. Blakey's victory over the union was a necessary step toward getting the air-travel system back on track.

The WSJ guys think Ms. Blakey won. Oh yeah, that’s right, this is the “Mission Accomplished” crowd. All Ms. Blakey has done is start a war. This war won’t be over for years. Been there, done that. I even got a few t-shirts. The difference is that Ms. Blakey and Mr. Rumsfeld will be writing their memoirs while the people unfortunate enough to have served under them will still be trying to pick up pieces.

The real crux of this editorial finally comes out towards the end. It isn’t the controllers, it isn’t the overcrowded airports (it is the airports guys, not the airspace) -- the WSJ Editorial Board didn’t suddenly buy a heart and start worrying about the passengers suffering through the endless delays -- it’s the money. Hey ! It’s the WSJ. It’s always about the money.

”If Congress decided instead to privatize the whole system, as Britain, Canada, Germany and other countries have done in whole or part, we'd hardly object.”

I guess this is the reason y’all are the editorial guys and not the news guys. You wouldn’t object. That’s not exactly news is it ? (seeing as you’re the crowd that is promoting it.) Government bad. Business good. It’s the same old sad song. Unfortunately for this crowd it was the greatest government in the world that built the greatest air traffic system in the world. And Britain, Canada nor Germany can’t hold a candle to it. Not even if they all combined. So much for the theory that government doesn’t work. It does if you work at it.

The reason Ms. Blakey can’t fix the FAA mess is that she and the Bush Administration are busy destroying it. They don’t want the government to succeed at anything. Let me send you back to that Senate report.

“The FAA budget justification for fiscal year 2008 propose to restructure these two accounts along the lines of business of the agency. Under this proposal, one account would pay for the Air Traffic Organization, including both the operating and capital expenses of the organization. Another account, Safety and Operations, would pay for both the operating and capital expenses of the Aviation Safety office and other offices within the FAA. This new budget structure is consistent with the reauthorization proposal submitted by the President in February of this year.”

Pay attention now. You have to read between the lines. The FAA is being administratively carved up in preparation of privatizing. Air Traffic in one pot, Safety in another. The FAA isn’t going away. It will still be a regulatory agency. But if you privatize the operations side -- air traffic control -- you have a “toll booth” for the sky. The Senate report goes on to say:

“In addition to changes to the FAA budget structure, the reauthorization proposal submitted by the President this year would make significant changes to the financing of FAA programs. The proposal would replace the current system of aviation taxes with a new user fee system, and it would provide the FAA with the authority to borrow up to $5,000,000,000 from the Treasury. Such borrowing would be repaid by an automatic increase to one of the newly-proposed user fees.”

(emphasis added)

My, my, my what a tangled web we weave. There are more games being played than at the Olympics. And the WSJ Editorial Board is just serving it’s role in the world’s second oldest profession: peddler.

Don Brown
August 1, 2007

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