Thursday, August 28, 2008

More On McCain

As promised, I spent some more time searching through Senator McCain’s record on aviation. I haven’t bothered searching through his voting record -- vote by vote. I’ve been looking to get a sense of the man --what he believes in when it comes to aviation. It still isn’t easy.

The one defining moment on what seems to be the top issue doesn’t bode well for the Senator. He got into a spat with AOPA’s out-going president -- Phil Boyer -- over user fees

The Chairman(Senator McCain).

If you believe that, Mr. Boyer, I strongly question your qualifications to serve on this Committee.

I’m going to save myself a lot of trouble and give you one link to the document that gave me the most information.





JOHN McCAIN, Arizona, Chairman

Senator McCain was pressing the issue of user fees for corporate jets. Mr. Boyer, recognizing how Washington works, alerted his members that Senator McCain was in favor of user fees -- without mentioning the corporate-jet part. AOPA has over 400,000 members -- members that have a lot of influence. They’re all educated and make enough money to afford flying a private airplane -- if not owning one outright. They know how to make the phones ring on Capital Hill. Evidently they did.

Chairman McCain was feeling the heat and he knew where the heat was coming from. He accused Mr. Boyer of misrepresenting his position.

The Chairman(Senator McCain).

So Mr. Boyer, when I advocated such a payment of that by corporate jets, your organization immediately alerted every aircraft owner in America alleging that I was going to levy some tax on them. It was unfair, it was inaccurate, and it is sort of the classic example of the way lobbyists in this town will distort their position and frighten their members, because that was clearly not what I wanted to do.

This is a very enlightening exchange. Chairman McCain was obviously upset. He says he’s upset about Mr. Boyer “distorting” his position but is it true ? Mr. Boyer knows that once the user-fee genie gets out of the bottle it will be hard to put back in. Chairman McCain knows this too so his bill started with the most promising target (corporate jets) knowing that it would probably be extended to the rest of General Aviation at a later date. Senator McCain can say he didn’t know that, but I don’t think anyone believes the Senator is naive. Besides, he showed his hand with this statement...

”I wanted to get at, which we should get at, the wealthiest people in America who are flying corporate jets around this country and not paying an extra penny for doing so, while average citizens, average middle income, lower income American citizens are paying, again, an increase in their cost of air tickets, while your fat cat friends pay nothing. “

...and I’ve got the cartoon to prove it. For those that don’t remember, I posted that cartoon some time ago in ”Fair Is Fair”. Please note the time frame. This hearing was in the year 2000. The cartoon is from 2007. Senator McCain was singing the ATA’s tune long before the ‘toon came out.

As I said, the hearing transcript provides a wealth of information. I’m not sure if you can appreciate the irony of it all. It’s a hearing about the nominees for the Federal Aviation Management Advisory Council. I’m assuming most of you don’t know of anything it's done even if you might vaguely remember hearing of it at one time. It was a committee mandated by the Bill we talked about the other day -- AIR-21. A Bill which Senator McCain co-wrote, by the way. As far as I can tell, the “Council” never did much of anything. President Clinton didn't even send any nominations to the council for three years -- and when he did, he didn’t send a nomination for Federal employee’s union slot on the committee. It’s just as well. Because I couldn’t figure out how they would have answered this (loaded) question from Senator McCain’s committee:

Question. Many observers agree that labor is the biggest cost driver at the FAA. Negotiations are underway with the FAA and a few of its employees' unions. Given your professional experience, how would you advise the Administrator to take a hard line, financially speaking, in these negotiations?

Or this one:

Question. There have been many calls for privatizing FAA's air traffic control services and other countries, including NAVCANADA, have privatized. Such steps are controversial and should not be taken without considerable debate. However, given FAA's rising operations costs, what are your views on contracting out some FAA operations such as control towers. Oceanic services, or maintenance activities?

Are you getting The Flick ?

Don Brown
August 28, 2006

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