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Sequestration and Punishing the Taxpayer: Air Traffic Control Edition

air-traffic-control

Airport delays are the latest example of targeting sequestration cuts where the taxpayer will feel them most.

Reuters (“Delays hit major airports as control tower furloughs kick in“):

Travelers waited more than an hour for flights in New York and experienced delays at other U.S. airports on Sunday evening as furloughs of air traffic controllers began, reducing the ability of busy hubs to handle arrivals and departures, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The furloughs that started Sunday reduced staffing by 10 percent across the country. Last week the FAA warned of delays up to 3-1/2 hours at some airports as the agency cuts spending to meet reductions required under federal budget cuts.

New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports reported delays of more than an hour, and Philadelphia international airport also reported delays due to furloughs, the FAA said.

Los Angeles International reported nearly a two-hour delay at 10 pm ET, and Newark Liberty International reported 28-minute delays, though the FAA could not confirm whether those were related to the staff cuts. Delays of up to 58 minutes in San Francisco and 29 minutes in Orlando, Florida, were due to construction and weather, the FAA said.

Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget points to the absurdity:

If these furloughs continue through September, as they must unless our government finally wakes up and governs, they will save $200 million of the $637 million that the FAA has to cut from its $16 billion budget.

And they will waste millions and millions of hours that citizens and businesses could productively spend doing something other than waiting around airports for our government to get its act together.

Yes, there are philosophical differences about the ideal role and scale of government in a civilized society.

Americans generally believe that government should be smaller, and do less, than the governments in most civilized societies (our government spending, and our tax rates, are low relative to other first-world countries).

But aside from a few fringe extremists who think we should go back to being a lawless frontier nation, it’s hard to imagine that are too many Americans who don’t think we should have a fully functioning air traffic control system.

But our government apparently does.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste an extra hour every time I am forced to travel by plane. And I don’t want our employees to waste countless hours every time they’re forced to travel by plane. And I don’t want all Americans to waste countless hours every time they travel by plane… all so that we can cut a tiny bit of spending that we don’t even need to cut.

If our government wants to talk seriously about fixing our long-term healthcare spending problem–the only budget problem that is really a problem–then, great. It’s high time the government did that.

The obvious rejoinder is that the very nature of the sequester is that the administration has no choice but to make across-the-board cuts and that personnel is the place where the cost savings are there to be had; other money has already been spent. But President Obama rejected a compromise solution that would have given him the authority to make smarter cuts, precisely because the relatively small cuts, handled appropriately, wouldn’t have been felt by the average citizen. As Ezra Klein noted at the time,

The bottom line is that Republican bill makes the sequester easier to live with, and the White House doesn’t want the sequester to be easier to live with. The point of these poorly constructed spending cuts, in the White House’s view, is that they’re hard to live with, and that forces both sides to compromise. Making the sequester a bit better makes it much harder to replace.

[...]

Republicans basically support the sequester because it’s all spending cuts, but they want the cuts allocated more intelligently. The White House opposes the sequester because it hits the economy too hard in 2013 and because it doesn’t include tax increases, and so they want it replaced with a compromise proposal. And so Republicans want to make the sequester a bit better and a lot more permanent while the White House opposes efforts to make the sequester better precisely because it would make it more permanent.

The result is this kind of nonsense: Deep and stupid cuts to areas of the budget where we all agree that spending makes sense. Not even the most die-hard Tea Partyer wants to do away with air traffic control. And, yet, here we are.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    You know, the Republicans could just agree to a mix of intelligent spending cuts and revenue increases, the way it was originally planned to go at the time of the failure of the so called Grand Bargain. But I guess that’s just crazy talk.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 44 Thumb down 4

  2. grumpy realist says:

    I think the other reason why Obama didn’t go for the “smarter cuts” deal is that he knew it would just make it that no matter what he did, the Republicans would scream treason at him and argue that if THEY were in charge, much nicer cuts would have been made that didn’t cause as much hardship bla bla bla…

    This way, the responsibility of the debacle completely on the shoulders of the people who created it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

  3. Gustopher says:

    Or the Republicans could take the ball and pass something that would restore funding to critical areas hit by the sequester — congress controls the purse strings, they have the power to do that.

    But, then if they restore funding for A, they have to take the blame for not restoring funding for B (or cutting B further). They don’t want to do that, do they?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  4. Raoul says:

    Cuts at The FAA will hurt one way ot the other- instead of accepting the GOPs position of “targeted curts” why don’t they indicte exactly which targeted cuts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  5. Mikey says:

    99% of Americans don’t care about the sequester, and have seen no ill effect from it, so the administration has to do things that make them care. This is one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 9

  6. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools: Those tax hikes already happened on January 1st. We kicked the budget ball down the road.

    @Gustopher: Republicans can’t pass laws; they’re the minority in the Senate and don’t have the White House.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 23

  7. Steve says:

    Air traffic control should be funded by user fees by those who fly (with perhaps a small government subsisdy to account for government funded flights and a small regulatory agency that provides the standards and oversight appropriate for air traffic control). There is no reason that non-flying persons should be forced to pay for system the do not use (or disproportinately related to their use). Moreover, there is no reason that tax-paying Americans who dutifully paid for their flights should be forced to wait because the government has failed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 12

  8. NickTamere says:

    Not even the most die-hard Tea Partyer wants to do away with air traffic control.

    I can’t find a single person who has proposed doing away with air traffic control, and there’s nothing to support that in the article excerpts. Where did that claim come from?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @Steve: Great! Well, I don’t use the military, so can I get out of paying the part of my taxes that goes to them? And if we’re talking about “disproportionate use”, why should I have to pay for social security for old people? They’re taking all the money and there won’t be any left for ME when I get to be that age.

    And let’s not get started on mail service to the rural parts of the US. DEFINITELY disproportionate benefit to the people who live there. If you want to live out in the middle of nowhere and get stuff delivered to you, hire your own burro.

    (Libertarians….they’re under every rock.)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 4

  10. Console says:

    If they were given latitude, the faa can make cuts that wouldn’t impact the public in the present or directly. But it would certainly screw over hiring and investment in new air traffic technology. I tend to get tired of the whole “we want cuts now!” nonsense because it is always short-sighted. The question has to be “what do you want the FAA’s mission to be?” That’s how you save money. Anything else just ends up making things inefficient and costing money in the long run.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  11. matt bernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    Republicans can’t pass laws; they’re the minority in the Senate and don’t have the White House.

    But, extending this logic, doesn’t it also hold true that Democrats cannot pass laws either?

    I mean they (a) don’t control the house, and (b) in the Senate, everyone agrees, that the minority party has a LOT of power to block legislation.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 3

  12. NickTamere says:

    @James Joyner: Republicans can’t pass laws; they’re the minority in the Senate and don’t have the White House.

    By that same metric neither can the Democrats as they don’t have a filibuster-proof majority and the GOP has decided as a tactic to filibuster legislation proposed by dems (and in one hilarious case their own proposals) One is due to the party marching in lockstep and refusing to break ranks on anything that might be seen as a “win” for the other party even if not doing so damages the country and our economy, the other is due to proposing legislation so abhorrent and restrictive that they can’t convince a majority of Americans that it’s beneficial, so they’re gerrymandering districts and making voting more difficult in hopes that reducing democratic participation will work in their favor. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  13. matt bernius says:

    @Steve:

    There is no reason that non-flying persons should be forced to pay for system the do not use (or disproportinately related to their use).

    Two important counter points:

    (a) to the degree that people interact with goods shipped by air, we are all, directly and indirectly, using the airline system.

    (b) there is a general public safety component here. We prefer not to have a system where planes are falling out of the sky.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  14. James Joyner says:

    @NickTamere: The point being that there’s near-universal agreement that the present level of air traffic control is necessary. Nobody is arguing that we should cut back. But we’re doing it anyway.

    @matt bernius: Right. It’s a stalemate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. stonetools says:

    @James Joyner:

    Nope. The Bush tax cuts were seperate from the Grand Bargain/sequester deal. The Obama Administration is well within its rights to demand additional revenue as part of a deal on the sequester.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  16. Jeremy R says:

    But President Obama rejected a compromise solution that would have given him the authority to make smarter cuts …

    A couple of things.

    First, it’s unlikely Toomey-Inhofe would have passed the House, or even the Senate GOP given congressional Republicans immediately began agitating against it as a executive powergrab. Second, and most importantly, Tomey-Inhofe did not give the President “the authority to make smarter cuts” as you claim. It required the President to present to Congress a Sequestration replacement plan, within the guidelines set by Tomey-Inhofe (no new revenue, limits on defense cuts, offsetting between accounts only alowed for Defense, etc) and then Congress still had to approve the President’s proposals.

    So essentially it required the President to propose the GOP’s cuts for them, still subject to their approval. It was nothing more than a puerile stunt, but congratulations to everyone who fell for it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 1

  17. anjin-San says:

    @ James

    Your party has been working hard for years to break the government. Congrats, it is working. This is what broken looks like. Stop being an enabler for the disfunctional GOP. Stop complaining about the wreckage their policies create. Fix your party, or leave it and join one that actually has an interest in governing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 2

  18. Barry says:

    Tough, James. Do you expect President Obama to work within his constraints to make the GOP’s life easier?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  19. Davebo says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point being that there’s near-universal agreement that the present level of air traffic control is necessary. Nobody is arguing that we should cut back. But we’re doing it anyway.

    ATC is just a part of the FAA’s responsibility James. And everyone (at least on your side of the aisle) is indeed arguing that we should cut back. Hence Sequestration.

    So where then? Should we be furloughing or laying off principal maintenance inspectors or principal operations inspectors? Should we stop issuing air worthiness directives or eliminate supplemental inspection documents? What about home base inspections for carriers? Perhaps we could eliminate them for Part 125 and 131 carriers and just concentrate on the 121 carriers?

    Sure, a 2 hour delay for Joe the business traveler is a bummer. But it beats the hell out of an indefinite delay due to your 737 having crashed into a swamp.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  20. rudderpedals says:

    The premises of austerity are pretty much wrecked by everyone from the IMF to R&R so this would be a good time to turn that stalemate into straight repeal of sequester. It’s the only rational choice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  21. Andy says:

    @stonetools:

    Nope. The Bush tax cuts were seperate from the Grand Bargain/sequester deal. The Obama Administration is well within its rights to demand additional revenue as part of a deal on the sequester.

    Ok, the administration can “rightfully” demand anything it wants, so what? By the same token, the GoP can make similar demands – again, so what?

    Demands mean very little unless one is in a position to dictate terms which is, quite obviously, an advantage neither side enjoys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. Septimius says:

    @stonetools:

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. The deal made in the Budget Contol Act was spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling past the 2012 election. If Congress failed to pass a bill that cut spending in the amount of the increase in the debt ceiling, then the automatic spending cuts (sequestration) kicked in. That’s why the debt ceiling increase and the sequestration cuts are almost dollar for dollar. Tax increases were never part of the deal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  23. Andy says:

    @Septimius: That’s not quite true. The “supercommittee” could consider various revenue increases, not just take cuts, in order to get the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. However, the committee was not able to agree on a plan so it’s not much of a surprise that the the two parties, more generally, can’t agree now either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  24. Rafer Janders says:

    @Steve:

    There is no reason that non-flying persons should be forced to pay for system the do not use (or disproportinately related to their use).

    Much of the food, medicine, clothing, mail, packages, etc. etc. that we use in this country gets transported by air at some point. Even if you don’t fly yourself, you reap the benefit of the quick and efficient movement of people and goods that makes modern commerce and society possible. If all you ever do is receive mail, and packages from Amazon, you are part of the flying public, even if you never set foot on an airplane yourself.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  25. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: Not to mention the non-flying public has a considerable interest in not having 747s plowing flame-filled trenches through residential neighborhoods.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Not to mention the non-flying public has a considerable interest in not having 747s plowing flame-filled trenches through residential neighborhoods.

    Oh, no, the market can correct that. If you find your home being repeatedly crashed into by one airline’s 747s, you can just switch your business to…hey, wait a minute.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  27. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m certain that there is some sort of market-based solution to this Air Traffic Control problem. Maybe we can sell ads on the sides of the towers. “Welcome to the Staples Control Tower! Flying – now that’s easy!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  28. Woody says:

    The population who get their information from Fox will only see those sequestration cuts that affect the middle-to-upper classes. Party organs like Steve Doocy will shake their heads in mock bewilderment and wonder why Obama chose these particular cuts, while there are still undeserving Americans on unemployment, disability, and child assistance that are right there for the axing.

    And the rest of the courtier media will continue to wonder why the President just can’t seem to come to an agreement with those completely reasonable and moral souls.

    Ugh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  29. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve always been touched by the faith conservatives have in Obama’s powers. No matter what silly, stupid thing they’ve done, they’re sure Obama could fix it if only he wanted to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  30. anjin-san says:

    @ Woody

    sequestration cuts that affect the middle-to-upper classes.

    This goes even to well informed Republicans like James. “Hey, this could inconvenience me! Totally unacceptable!”

    I was down at the local mental health clinic today. Some of those people will die if there are further cuts to community mental health services. People don’t choose to be mentally ill, any more that someone chooses to get cancer or alzheimers.

    So, Republicans, middle class and up, save up that outrage. You will need it if the budget cuts you have worked so hard for end up robbing you of an hour or two of your time. Under no circumstances take a moment to think about the powerless members of our society who have a bit more to lose then you do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  31. Steve says:

    @grumpy realist: Your analogies are nonsensical. My post does not suggest that there is never a role for government. My message spoke only to the air traffic issue. Try to maintain focus and avoid speculating on my worldview based on one non-generic post. For example, the military analogy makes no sense. Everyone should pay for the military because it is there to protect the public at large. Everyone benefits from that. We can quibble about the rate at which different parties benefits form that protection, and what the “fair share” should be, but I never suggested that there is not a role for taxation for certin here is suggesting that

    Second, I would agree that we should get rid of social secutiry and replace it with a social safety net for those who need it, rather than a forced savings system with a negative return. But, to the extent we keep the system, under the theory that everyone weill benefit, I see no issue with taxing everyone for it. (Although, like you I am skeptical of what it will look like down the road)

    As for mail, I agree that people in rural areas get a disproportionate benefit from the U.S. mail service. It is antiquated and should be dismantled and left for dead. You are free to disagree with this opinion, but it is far from radical. Indeed, it was discussed here just a few months ago. ( http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/should-we-continue-to-subsidize-rural-mail-delivery )

    So, please spare me your righteous indignation and assumptions based on one post. But at least you lived up to your moniker (well, at least the first half).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  32. Steve says:

    @matt bernius: Responses to your counterpoints –

    (a) to the degree that people interact with goods shipped by air, we are all, directly and indirectly, using the airline system.

    The answer to this is simple, to the extent I receive items shipped by air, the retailers and/or their shipping contractors should incur the costs related to air travel and pass them on to the consumer as a cost of providing the item in question. I am not sure why this was not obvious.

    (b) there is a general public safety component here. We prefer not to have a system where planes are falling out of the sky.

    As for the general safety component, is the only way to prevent tragedy to have government employees at every turn? In many sectors where safety is at issue, the government has regulations, and private enterprise is compelled to reply. Not everyone involved in an industry where the safety of the public is at issue is the entire service manned by the government. Indeed, the same individuals would likely be performing the same air traffic service under the same regulations they currently do. The only significant difference would be that their services would be paid for by the airlines and thus, not subject to government funding issues. Since the same people would be doing the same jobs with only the source of funding at issue, I do not see how safety would be significantly at risk. Again, I am not a radical opposed to any government regulation in this area. There is a role for the government related to public safety in regulating the air traffic system and even monitoring and spot-checking compliance and performance. But requiring everyone to be employed by general tax dollars does not make sense. It would be like building a subway system and then let everyone ride for free while the systems is subsidized by the taxpayers at large whether they ride or not. While people you ride the subways regularly would like this system, those that do not probably would be against it. I don’t see the difference really.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  33. Steve says:

    @Rafer Janders: See response to @matt bernius above. Please explain why those costs can’t be incurred by the shippiing party and passed on to the consumers and why taxation on the public at large is the ONLY solution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  34. anjin-san says:

    the U.S. mail service. It is antiquated and should be dismantled and left for dead.

    Apparently you don’t realize that the USPS is a critically important business partner for UPS and FedEx. Do some research on ‘last-mile’ delivery in rural areas, and the revenue UPS and FedEx derive from providing services for the post office. There are no free market genies waiting to pop up and fill the void that would be left in the absence of the USPS.

    Personally, I find that I use USPS shipping for smaller, inexpensive items, because it costs about half as much as shipping from a UPS store.

    So the post office is very important to the shipping industry as a whole. It is critical for resident of rural areas, and it is, in many cases, a better value than private shippers for myself, a resident of a major metro area.

    You need to do better than “It is antiquated and should be dismantled and left for dead.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  35. Steve says:

    @Rafer Janders: Why is it that the pro-government crowd’s response is always that without government everything would be a total failure? While I would like to list all of the incidents where governments (federal, state, and local) have failed and created death and destruction to the citizenry, I am not sure the OTB comment software can handle the text required. Again, there is a middle ground between government monopoly and anarchy. It is funny how if one suggests a more limited goverment role in some facet of life, the liberal set assumes that the only option is no government involvement whatsoever and therefore there will be death and destruction. There are other possibilities that involve public/private partnerships that would be more cost efficient, more equitable, and would likely be far more SAFE!

    But, let’s assume for a moment that you are right – private airlines would find it acceptable to let planes fall out of the sky. Since my original point was about user fees vs general taxation of the public at large, for the sake of argument, I am willing to concede the issue of keeping the ATC people employed by the government. The only difference would be that the funding for their salaries and operations would be provided by user fees rather than the general fund. Would this cause planes to fall out of the sky?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  36. Steve says:

    @anjin-san: The USPS was not the issue de jure. I know there are counterpoints regarding rural deliver and the USPS. And, I thought I fairly mentioned as much in my response by directing anyone interested to rehash those arguments via the previous OTB post. My only point in response to Mr. Grumpy was that it was not radical to have the discussion that not all services need to be paid for by the public at large. We may philosophicaly disagree (obviously) on whether that is the right or wrong approach, but I simply take issue with those like Grumpy who assume that because I suggest a user fee approach to ATC, that I must be opposed to all taxation, all goverment, and all regulation. This is not the case. Apparently, you did not understand that to be the point of the response. (Sorry to sound snide there, but starting a sentence with “Apparently you don’t realize” makes you sound that way yourself, so I decided to snidely reply in kind.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  37. Davebo says:

    James, being obviously oblivious to CFR Part 49 has chosen to move on to another rant.

    Not surprising. He is after all a registered Republican. If you’re ignorant on the issue, ignore it.

    Hell at least Doug pretends to be independent. And he, like James, is getting paid so it’s all good right?

    I honestly can’t imagine why people who believe the world is seven thousand years old are drawn to the GOP but at at times I realize it’s due to people smarter than they are yet willing to fan the flames of ignorance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @Steve: I certainly didn’t get any benefit out of that all-around disaster called the Iraq war that has now shacked up a cost of 1.5Trillion and climbing. I didn’t vote for it, I didn’t fight in it, I didn’t get any benefit from it. So lay off that blubbering about “the military providing protection”, willya? It hasn’t protected ME. The only “protection” that the whole Iraq debacle seems to have protected is Halliburton’s profits, Iran’s security, and a whole bunch of overly-paid positions for clueless nitwits from the AEI implementing their Ayn Randian capitalist fantasies in a burnt-out war zone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  39. grumpy realist says:

    …so much for my formatting skills. The first “I” was supposed to be the only word bolded, not all of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Davebo says:

    And for what it’s worth, the University of Alabama still provides a great education for the most part despite those that would prefer it didn’t. So that’s one excuse we can throw out the window.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. grumpy realist says:

    @Steve: kiddo, take a look at the history of airplanes in the US and the litany of disasters that have occurred if you’re trying to understand why the government got involved.

    Basically, we left it up to the private sector and it didn’t work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  42. KariQ says:

    I’ll say it again: Republicans wanted budget cuts, they’re getting budget cuts. If they wanted some say in how the budget was cut, they should have come up with specific proposals for how and where to cut. They didn’t. They have no right to whine now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  43. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans want to shrink Government and keep taxes on very rich people extremely low.
    This is what that looks like.
    Sorry you are disappointed.
    Whine-on whiners.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  44. C. Clavin says:

    James….
    How were you going to react when the guy you voted for cut discretionary spending across the board by 20%???
    This is nothing compared to that stupidity.
    Just imagine how you’d be whining then.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  45. Console says:

    I tend not to be a huge proponent of the user fee approach mostly because the government isn’t really subject to the free market. So the pricing is more or less arbitrary. You end up with a source of funding that only serves an ideological purpose rather then a practical one.

    The point is sort of moot though as 70-80 percent of the FAA’s operating budget comes from excise taxes and not the general fund anyways. But that’s also what makes sequestration extra stupid for some agencies. The FAA has to limit its workload to handle reduced staffing numbers, but less flights means it has to borrow more money from the general fund (adding to the deficit).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  46. @Console:

    I tend not to be a huge proponent of the user fee approach mostly because the government isn’t really subject to the free market. So the pricing is more or less arbitrary.

    That’s exactly why a user fee approach is to be preferred. Otherwise poor people pay for jet travel and our children and grandchildren pay down debt that was accumulated to fund the postal service while the big banks, big publishers, big retailers and big mail order houses who are the major users of the mail system get off scott free. Your values aren’t showing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  47. In quite a few small jurisdictions (which tend Republican) the locals are assessing user fees to keep open control towers that are being axed by the FAA. Yellowstone Park roads have been plowed by red locals to counteract Obama’s strategies. Large airports, however, are in jurisdictions controlled by D’s — they are going along with Obama’s game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  48. Console says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    My values would be showing if the general fund was funded by progressive taxation…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  49. Console says:

    Well, let me be more clear. In my ideal world, the vast majority of the government’s funding would serve a practical purpose outside of just collecting money. Pollution taxes etc.

    User fees (not being regulated by actual supply and demand) tend to have other impacts. You make people pay for safety… they might forgo safety if you screw up the pricing. Or maybe aviation itself takes the hit and people just fly less. All that, and as an agency, you still will end up on the chopping block when spending cut mania sweeps into DC every few years. No matter how profitable you are. Because its all ideological.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  50. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Are you sure Steve isn’t on to something? We pay for defense and education because they are public goods.

    Air travel doesn’t fit the strict definition, and might not even fit a loose one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  51. wr says:

    @Steve: “Why is it that the pro-government crowd’s response”

    We’re not “pro-government. We’re pro-civilization. Sorry you’re on the other side.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  52. john personna says:

    (I guess the lack of a public good argument cuts at the idea that cuts to air travel are specially egregious for “taxpayers.” How often does the average “taxpayer” fly? As opposed to the pundit set?)

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  53. wr says:

    @john personna: That’s like saying the higway system isn’t a public good because you never drive between LA and Phoenix.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  54. john personna says:

    @wr:

    Come on, that’s totally different. It is easy to show that the average taxpayer does use the highway system directly, and indirectly, every day.

    Can you show me where I “used” the air system this week?

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  55. john personna says:

    Note, from Wikipedia:

    In economics, a public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous in that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from use and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others.[1] Examples of public goods include fresh air, knowledge, lighthouses, national defense, flood control systems and street lighting. Public goods that are available everywhere are sometimes referred to as global public goods.

    Public roads are non-excludable, and only non-rivalrous up to gridlock, but they come close.

    To make air travel a public good you’d need to [hand] out free tickets.

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  56. Moosebreath says:

    @grumpy realist:

    “Basically, we left it up to the private sector and it didn’t work.”

    This is the reason for every one of the laws and regulations which Libertarians complain of. Every single one. And yet they have an irrational, faith-based belief that this time it will be different and the free market will create a orderly and stable resolution which will not have harms outweighing the good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  57. anjin-san says:

    @ Steve

    I did not go out of my way to be snide, but

    the U.S. mail service. It is antiquated and should be dismantled and left for dead.

    is kind of a stupid thing to say. If you are going to say dumb things in public, you run the risk of getting your feelings hurt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  58. Console says:

    @john personna:

    Transportation infrastructure isn’t a public good at all in the economic sense. Any argument that treats aviation as exclusive applies to roads as well. But highways tend to be funded by “user fees” also (gas tax, tolls) so it’s sort of a moot point either way.

    But in general, air traffic provides services that contribute to things other than passenger flights. Cargo is the most obvious. Air ambulances (AKA lifeguard/medivac flights) are another big one. Military readiness is a lesser thought about one. The military trains with the FAA system. Then you have the fact that FAA radar is used by law enforcement and military. There are certainly public benefits to the air traffic system that go beyond buying a plane ticket. Yes, we could charge all these users individually (and in all reality, we already do, only a minority of the FAA’s air traffic funding comes from the general fund) but I don’t know if that’s really the appropriate way to think about most government services.

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  59. john personna says:

    @Console:

    I would beware arguments that treat the “transportation system” as uniform, either blurring planes and cars, or cars and bicycles, or bicycles and pedestrians.

    But I think public sidewalks and roads sit near lighthouses in their non-exclusivity.

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  60. john personna says:

    I did find this paper, which attempts to break down publicly attributable costs as distinct from commercial transportation costs:

    Airport and Airway Costs Allocated to the Public Sector 1985

    It does break out military and weather costs as more public than the transportation bit.

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  61. While air lanes as a whole have significant public good attributes, specific airports do not. There is no reason why users of individual airports shouldn’t bear the full costs of safe operation. It’s too bad the trust fund status of much of the FAA funding wasn’t honored in the sequester — all the more reason in my mind to move away from centralized and towards more localized funding sources.

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  62. john personna says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    Beacons are much like lighthouses, I would agree. But as soon as you get to airports, yeah, use of an airport runway seems “rivalrous” and something that could carry an attributed cost.

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  63. Console says:

    @john personna:

    Hah, I forgot all about weather.

    Some things that the government subsidizes tend to have large spillover affects into other parts of public life. Radar is one of those things. Satellites are another. Roads fit into that. Eventually you get this large interconnected system that becomes really hard to parse out. Privatization makes less sense. Fee based systems end up not covering all the beneficiaries. etc. etc.

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  64. anjin-san says:

    Some things that the government subsidizes tend to have large spillover affects into other parts of public life

    The Apollo Guidance Computer is a big one, there are quiete a few more examples.

    http://www.crn.com/blogs-op-ed/channel-programs/218600158/apollo-11-moon-landing-delivered-40-years-of-spin-off-tech.htm

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  65. Console says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    Part of the problem is that localized funding can create an extra layer of bureaucratic and political hassle. Hard to stomach not having ASDE-X at your airport when you are paying for you air traffic service just like Airport ABC is that has had it for 5 years. You’re a hell of a lot less more likely to put up with some broken approach lights or an instrument approach being out for maintenance for a long time (ok, that would be a positive). But, I could see even more congressional interference with the FAA.

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  66. @James Joyner:

    Republicans can’t pass laws; they’re the minority in the Senate and don’t have the White House.

    The thing is: the Republicans can pass legislation in the House, but the Democrats pretty much can’t in the Senate. I concur it is a stalemate, but it is one that at least allows the Rs the ability to make proactive legislative action, if they want, while the Ds (despite a “majority” in the Senate) cannot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  67. Console says:

    But to give my full opinion. Localized funding is purely ideological. There is nothing really practical about it. And like I said, you end up with a situation where you create another political operator in this. It’s not like Airport ABC can just go buy some knockoff Chinese technology if they want the latest air traffic upgrade.

    There is no real downside to a centralized pool for a national system. Because don’t fool yourself, even the airport part of the airspace system has to cooperate with the national system. The software and hardware has to be compatible with the overlying approach control. The onsite navaids and radar have to be maintained. The FAA would still have its hands in everything… only with a specious source of funding.

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  68. Mikey says:

    @john personna: The issue isn’t air travel per se, it’s the air traffic control system that’s being impacted by the sequester cuts.

    You may not have benefited this week from travel on an airplane, or from any U. S. mail or FedEx packages that made part of their way to you on one, but you certainly benefited from an air traffic control system that ensured an aircraft didn’t crash near or on you.

    ATC is a public safety thing, and therefore the public benefits.

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  69. Mikey says:

    @john personna: On the other hand, there has been privatization of ATC in some countries, with positive effect: Commercializing Air Traffic Control: Have the Reforms Worked?

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  70. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Back to the original topic: is it now verboten to bring up that Obama proposed the sequester, Obama was the key player in the details, and Obama opposed moves that would help ease the wrost impacts?

    It’s clear, by deed if not word: the Obama administration wants the sequester to hurt as many people as possible. That was their original design, and they’ve opposed anything that would ease that. There is even a leaked e-mail to back that up.

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  71. john personna says:

    @Console, @Mikey:

    “Localized funding” and “localized costs attribution” are two different things. As Mikey’s link illustrates, many nations have national but more corporate structures. Why not that and costs attribution to users?

    I did order a couple small things on-line this week. I chose the “cheap” shipping options. I have no idea if those included air shipping, but if they did, why not attribute cost to them specifically, and not to the package that went by truck or train?

    That would be fair, and economically efficient. There is no need IMO to let this trend into a discussion dominated by mood affiliation. (ie liberals like flights to Europe more than bombers, and justify air travel for THAT reason.)

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  72. john personna says:

    (There is more mood affiliation in this thread than you might recognize.)

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  73. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “Back to the original topic: is it now verboten to bring up that Obama proposed the sequester, ”

    You mean is it verboten to mindlessly repeat right wing talking points and then to wallow in a puddle of conservative selp-pity?

    Of course not, Little Jenos. You may continue to do what you always do.

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  74. Mikey says:

    @john personna: A large percentage of funding for the ATC system is drawn from the 7.5% excise tax on airline tickets, and from per-flight-segment excise taxes. There are also international departure and arrival taxes. These all go into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which provides 71% of the funding for the FAA (see the AATF Fact Sheet).

    So we are, in fact, attributing 71% of the cost of the FAA directly to travelers and other users of the air transport system.

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  75. Console says:

    @Mikey:

    Good paper.
    However, of the large air traffic organizations, America’s is the most efficient and technologically advanced. One thing people sort of gloss over with commercialization’s successes is that places like Europe have a lot of room to cut costs because they moved like 30 different ANSP’s under one international body. Easier to get rid of redundancy.

    A lot of the problems solved by other countries and commercialization aren’t really problems that the FAA had in the first place. And since that study, costs have been rising for other ANSP’s and their efficiency gains have been declining:

    http://reason.org/news/show/1012447.html

    I was most interested in the productivity and cost figures, which are broken down by individual ANSP. On the basic measure of IFR flight hours per controller in operations, by far the highest-ranked is GCAA of the UAE. But among the largest ANSPs, the FAA ATO ranks first, at 1,803, followed by Nav Canada (1,619), Mexico’s SENEAM (1,394), and Nav Portugal (1,275). The trends from 2006 through 2010 show nearly half making single-digit gains in productivity over this period, while those with lower productivity in 2010 had mostly small losses. Over the same period, nearly all showed increases in cost per IFR, either of single or low double-digit percentages.

    these are the surveys:

    http://www.canso.org/policy/performance

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  76. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    A good start, but if it were 100% we wouldn’t have this sequestration discussion.

    Also, remember that environmental externalities to many travel modalities are not fully priced in, or attributed to users.

    Air travel has environmental impacts, which I do not see discussed above. Might we be “over using” air, compared to less impactful methods?

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  77. john personna says:

    (Basically, if you look at the environmental impacts, air travel should be taxed and not subsidized. In a somewhat conflicted outlook, some would like strong national FAA funding, and then a carbon tax to set things right again.

    It might be simpler, as a start, to cut that subsidy.)

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  78. Mikey says:

    @john personna: I’m willing to accept the 29% that comes out of the general fund as payment for the public safety aspect of the FAA.

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  79. matt bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The thing is: the Republicans can pass legislation in the House, but the Democrats pretty much can’t in the Senate. I concur it is a stalemate, but it is one that at least allows the Rs the ability to make proactive legislative action, if they want, while the Ds (despite a “majority” in the Senate) cannot.

    Interesting points there Steven. So from your perspective, is the House — because of it’s rule structure — the more politically important to control if a party wants to be seen as putting forth its “agenda”?

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  80. Mikey says:

    @john personna: You may be surprised to learn rail travel is not significantly less CO2 emitting than air travel, once you get outside 700 miles.

    However, there’s a significant benefit to rail travel for the short-haul trips where rail would actually compete with air (DC-NY-Boston axis, for example).

    Seems to me the best deal would be imposition of a carbon tax on the short-haul flights, if we’re going to deal with environmental impact that way. Long-haul flights aren’t significantly more polluting per passenger mile than long-haul rail, but both are significantly less than travel by car.

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  81. @matt bernius:

    So from your perspective, is the House — because of it’s rule structure — the more politically important to control if a party wants to be seen as putting forth its “agenda”?

    Pretty much, yes. It is the chamber that can allow a party to put forth a coherent legislative strategy unencumbered by having to placate the minority in any way.

    Of course, the current House majority is hampered by the fact that the party is factionalized at the moment.

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  82. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Sorry that is a cyclical argument. Each flight carries a risk. It is only public safety because it is in the air. And so a public safety cost can still be attributed to each flight.

    @Mikey:

    The fair comparison is between freight rail and air freight. Those are in cost competition today.

    Air travel is in competition with electronic communications, for the most part.

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  83. john personna says:

    As an aside, my general frustration as a fiscal centrist comes when “if we can’t cut this, what can we cut?”

    An FAA subsidy is not food stamps. Not on any level.

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  84. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Freight rail vs. air freight is no contest, freight rail produces dramatically less CO2.

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  85. stonetools says:

    Unsurprisingly, Republicans were unconcerned about cuts when those cuts were about Head Start programs and national parks. Now that it’s affectiong airports, they are getting all “These cuts are stupid. We need to reconsider” . Wait till the cuts start hitting military bases in the South and Texas…

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  86. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Each flight carries a risk. It is only public safety because it is in the air. And so a public safety cost can still be attributed to each flight.

    Then the question becomes whether or not the other things the FAA does should be paid for out of the general fund, and how great a percentage those constitute.

    We could say “the FAA’s facilitation of air travel provides an economic benefit to the whole country, even people who don’t fly,” but that seems like a rather nebulous standard to me.

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  87. Console says:

    @john personna:

    A good start, but if it were 100% we wouldn’t have this sequestration discussion.

    I’m not sure if that’s even true. I mean, you have government agencies (like the bureau of land management) that turn profits that are still under sequestration.

    The battle is never about getting our fiscal house in order. It’s about kneejerk ideological opposition to federal government.

    As far as the FAA goes. Part of the issue is that air traffic will exist with or without the FAA. So the costs still get incurred to the american economy. Some of the spillover effects from the FAA would still need to be maintained even without air traffic (security would still depend on primary radar). And the monopoly nature of air traffic makes it even harder to exist without government oversight anyways.

    I’m sort of rambling, but the point is that sometimes cutting the federal government’s share of something doesn’t really help in the macro sense if the costs just get passed onto another part of the economy. If we can reform air traffic in a way that makes it cheaper and more efficient, then that would be great (we’d just need to offset the pollution costs). But user fees don’t accomplish that in and of themselves, and can have negative impact if implemented wrong (imagine if you had to pay money everytime you wanted to wear a seatbelt in your car).

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  88. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Agreed. We could have the weather service pay for radar images, and we could have military pay for their use. What remains might be a safety, license, and transponder fee for any aircraft.

    The marginal impact of these things would ensure that motivated users pay for fees, and that there are no incidental free-riders.

    (If my “cheapest shipping” were coming by air because subsidy made it so, that would be a bad thing.)

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  89. john personna says:

    @Console:

    I was thinking that a monopoly corporation, under government regulation, would not face sequestration.

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  90. Console says:

    @john personna:

    Hah, or they’d just lose their contract and get closed down like the 149 towers that are supposed to be getting closed in June.

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  91. Steve says:

    kiddo, take a look at the history of airplanes in the US and the litany of disasters that have occurred if you’re trying to understand why the government got involved.

    Basically, we left it up to the private sector and it didn’t work.

    @grumpy realist: I am sorry. I did not realize there have not been any aviation accidents since the Federal government took over. Whew!!

    Also, do you really think it is a sound argument that because you did not support the Iraq war, that taxation of the general public for military funding is unsound public policy. I understand your attempt at the straw man argument, but kiddo, come on, I am sure you know that there are other things going on the military than one conflict. If you read a bit closer you will see that while I am philosophically opposed to social security as it currently structured, as a matter of public policy I have no issue with the fact that it is taxed against the public at large.

    Try to be a bit more nuanced as liberals always suggest they are.

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  92. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    BTW, obviously, and that was what I was sayin’

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  93. john personna says:

    @Steve:

    Just to show where I split with Steve, I think a national retirement program does have broad national benefit. A timely piece:

    Retirement Gamble: Frontline’s Powerful Case for Taking Control of Your Financial Future

    The retirement crisis in America is fairly well defined: Six in 10 people expect to delay retirement; just 14% are confident they’ll have enough to live comfortably and 17% say they will never be able to quit work altogether.

    If that doesn’t bring you down, make sure you tune in to the PBS Frontline special Retirement Gamble tonight. Serious depression is sure to follow …

    This is clearly different than luxury air travel and freight, at least to me.

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  94. Steve says:

    @wr: @wr:

    That’s like saying the higway system isn’t a public good because you never drive between LA and Phoenix

    In fact, at least in theory, there is an attempt to place a user fee taxation system for public roads through the gas tax. Roads are often funded through a combination of state and federal funds, and though most state legislatures abuse the system, the idea is that the taxes rolled into the gas you pay for at the pump is supposed to go toward those roads. Therefore, the more you drive, the more you pay. Smells like a user fee to me. Again, it is not perfect, but that is the idea. So the notion that you suggest that highways are supposed to funded by the public at large is not exactly true.

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  95. Steve says:

    @anjin-san: ah yes, classic liberal argument. I disagree with your public poliy position, so it is license to call you stupid and ridcule you without actually admitting that there are two sides to the issue. Nice work.

    While I disagree with your position on the post office, I am willing to concede that there is an argument that subsidizing rural delivery isa way to go. To suggest that we can’t do without it and ridcule someone for even suggesting it is not rational debate, it is just name-calling. I should no expect more, I know, but *sigh*

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  96. john personna says:

    @Steve:

    We would have a more efficient transportation system, and better understanding of true costs, if rail, auto, and air transportation were all funded by users (direct and indirect).

    If you add in fair environmental costs for each, you are that much further ahead.

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  97. Steve says:

    @Mikey:

    A large percentage of funding for the ATC system is drawn from the 7.5% excise tax on airline tickets, and from per-flight-segment excise taxes. There are also international departure and arrival taxes. These all go into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which provides 71% of the funding for the FAA (see the AATF Fact Sheet).

    So we are, in fact, attributing 71% of the cost of the FAA directly to travelers and other users of the air transport system

    Hmm. That is interesting. It still makes me wonder why we still provide 29% if it would lead to such delays in the event of a relatively small tax cut. But I will admit I am surprised at how much is alread funded by user fees.

    On a separate note, to those who have raised public safety as a reason for public funding, I think the FDA is probably a good example of where public and private can work together. As I understand it (and I am by no means an expert), the FDA sets food safety regulation and inspects the facilities to ensure compliance with safety regulations, but it is the manufacturers that are responsible for the funding of the actual safety mechanisms.

    Again, while everyone loves to bash liberterianism, I think most liberterians are not anarchists and believe that there is a government role in many facets of life, but that currently the government has occupied the field where oversight would be sufficient.

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  98. Console says:

    @Steve:

    To answer your original question, user fees can decrease safety if they are implemented in a poor way. Air carriers are sort of held hostage because of the inherent danger in flying blind (i.e. flying IFR). But the danger for VFR operators is much less. Lots of times, VFR planes can conceivably fly without talking to air traffic even though its safer for them to do so. If you start charging them for things like filing flight planes or asking for flight following, then they might err on the side of not talking to air traffic. It sort of becomes a free rider problem. Air traffic can see you even if you don’t have a transponder. So air traffic is going to call traffic on you and probably guide the other aircraft around you. You end up saving money and still getting indirect radar service… unless the other guy has made that same calculation.

    Things like that are where I tend to find the whole public-private partnership sort of strange. For it to work, you still have to have good public policy. You need oversight, you need to build proper incentives, you essentially still need to have all the things that make a purely public monopoly work. Only now you’ve added a CEO that needs to be policed because he’s willing to strangle his customers to get rich.

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  99. Steve says:

    @john personna: For the record, I don’t think that there is a split. If you go back and read my comments in the thread I said that it was prefectly appropriate to tax the public at large for social security for the precise reason that it benefits the public at large. I distinguished it from the ATC situation where user fees made more sense.

    I did say that I don’t think the current system is great and that I would prefer that people privately fund their own retirements (or be compelled to privately fund them) and we provide a safety net for those unable to provide for themselves post retirement. But, I did mention several areas where taxation of the the general public was logical including SS and the military (though Grumpy seemed to think that he should not have to fund the military at all because he was opposed to the Iraq war).

    Also, I do not necessarily agree that user fees are not appropriate even for the public safety aspect. If one creates a hazardous environment, the public at large should not be charged for creating system to make that hazardous environment safe. The fact that the public benefits from the safety does not mean that the entity creating the hazardous environment should not be financially responsible for rectifying the hazards. It would be like saying that an energy company could construct a nuclear power plant, but we should tax the public for any devices or facilities installed to prevent the site from melting down. I don’t think so. I think the energy company and those that pay for the power provided by the plant should pay for the use of the energy and for the safety mechanisms required by regulations.

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  100. Steve says:

    @Console: I think there is some confusion. I never suggested that we should change the ATC system we have or localize it or make it optional. I have never suggested loosening the regulatory control over ATC. All I said was that the funding should come from user fees and not the general fund. Under the regime I suggest, I don’t see how anything would be different than it is now. If people can avoid using the system now, they could avoid it under the user fee system. But, to be clear, I am not advocating deregulation or localization. It is simply, shifting where the money comes from.

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  101. john personna says:

    @Steve:

    It seems we just disagree with details then. I think that where “no action has no risk” then increased risk should be borne by users. We didn’t need an FAA before we had planes. We would not need a NRC without nukes.

    I’m not sure nukes were ever really economic, with costs fully accounted, but they look especially bad today with cheap natural gas and more efficient natural gas power generating plants. You’ve really got to be retro and out of loop to think nukes have some kind of politically suppressed efficiency, safety, and cost argument.

    The problem with retirement accounts is that entire cohorts have under-saved. Even if we blue-sky a better system, it could only be applied to people with working paths ahead of them. But yes, we should encourage high savings rates, over and beyond retirement plans, but then we must prepare for those who don’t or can’t save enough to make a difference.

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  102. Mikey says:

    @Steve:

    It still makes me wonder why we still provide 29% if it would lead to such delays in the event of a relatively small tax cut.

    As I said in my first comment (which nobody seemed to like…LOL) on this post, the delays are a way for the administration to make people care about the sequester.

    I suspect the airlines would push hard against raising the various user-based taxes, because doing so would make air travel even more expensive and push more people to other modes of transportation.

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  103. anjin-san says:

    @ Steve

    without actually admitting that there are two sides to the issue.

    You never made a coherent argument against the post office. Feed free to do so. Or, continue play the victim card – the classic conservative approach.

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  104. Console says:

    I think the energy company and those that pay for the power provided by the plant should pay for the use of the energy and for the safety mechanisms required by regulations.

    This is what I mean by having to manage incentives. In the air traffic control world, this means dealing with who pays for consumer side upgrades to the air traffic system. If air carriers have to pay for ADS-B transponders then ADS-B will end up being this great system that no one uses. We end up sacrificing safety and efficiency for a revenue model that’s based more on ideology than practicality.

    But I think the paper John Personna posted fits here too. ATC has more public benefit than a pure public safety. The main thing is radar. There is no point in a redundant radar system. The same radar that gets used to control planes is the same radar that’s looking at your weather or that’s being used by NORAD or Customs. The ATC system also deals with military pilot training. A T38 doing practice approaches increases my workload just like any other aircraft in the system.

    The 70-30 split comes close to being about right. I’m still not a fan of a fee based system though. Any sort of pricing that’s made solely for the sake of revenue is inefficient to me.

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  105. Joe Smithe says:

    The wining and complaining from the pro-government croud is simply amazing. As an Airline Pilot of 20 years, I understand 1 or 2 things about the airline industry and the ATC system.

    Let me suggest a few things:

    For those of your ardent Democrats who have no problem raising taxes (as long as its not on you mind you), WHY is it that PAY CUTS are never discussed.
    Q: If you have a job, what happens when your employer falls on bad times?
    A: Their are layoffs, but also PAY CUTS. I’ve taken LOTS OF THESE throughout the years as an Airline Pilot.

    Now, 4 years at the FAA means a salary of around $100,000. Raises every year plus adjustments for inflation. At the ripe old age of 55, a person retires with a full pension- meaning $150k+ (in today’s dollars since inflation adjusted) for 30 to 40 more years!

    So, as to the haters of: the GOP and those who are sick and tired of being robbed, why is it that government employees compensation is sacrosanct, but their bosses (those of us in the private sector) appear to exist to simply be exploited to pay for their lifestyles.

    Smart layoffs and a 5% PAY CUT with pension reform would solve the problem. Worst case, it all could be done with PAY CUTS.

    Will someone please explain why pay cuts don’t count for government employees? If you tell me that its because “we can’t” due to labor contract, spare your breadth. If you are not willing to do anything about that, through negotiation or BK, then my response then is let it all fail.

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  106. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Notable NASA climate scientist James Hansen seems to be a booster of nuclear power:

    Nuclear Power Saves Millions Of Lives

    (Link is to Business Insider, but the original story is in Scientific American.)

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  107. Console says:

    @Joe Smithe:

    A furlough IS a pay cut… It’s a ten percent pay cut (for the FAA it’s one day off every 2 weeks). This isn’t rocket science, even for a pilot.
    That’s not even getting into the fact that a layoff for me (as a controller), is probably a layoff for you. How many flights have been cancelled already? 600? Good luck with that Mr. airline pilot. We’ll see how long your airline lasts this time.

    The mandatory retirement age is 56 for ATC and the highest percentage of pension you can get is like 39 percent unless you manage to get a desk job. There haven’t been any full pensions since the 90′s.

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  108. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    My opinion is shaped by the idea that China (and India, and other developing economies) will burn a lot of coal no matter what. In that environment, the marginal environmental cost of one US nuclear plant over equivalent natural gas generation is low. From that paper though:

    Nuclear-free projections for the next four decades look even more dire. The authors estimate between 4 and 7 million deaths for the “All-Coal” scenario and between 420, 000 – 680, 000 deaths for an “All-Gas” energy policy. This is something which countries like Germany and Japan that are planning to phase out nuclear must seriously consider. Only if all the nuclear power were replaced by equipotent renewable energy sources in the next four decades would these deaths be prevented. This kind of high-capacity deployment of renewables seems quite uncertain for now.

    Big difference between the coal and the natural gas. Indeed, ~500K deaths worldwide, over 40 years, is ~12 thousand deaths per year .. out of a global death rate of 56 million deaths per year.

    I’m a little skeptical of the “attribution” to natural gas as well.

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  109. Joe Smithe says:

    Let me add to my above post-

    For comparison, as a 20 year airline pilot flying internationally, I finally earn about $130k/year (I didn’t break $35k/year until I was about 7 years in). I also won’t retire until 65, have NO PENSION, and a regular medical plan where I get to pay a lot just like everyone else. And I won’t even get into my qualification requirements when compared with what is needed to be hired by the FAA.
    Why am I paid this way? Because the FREE MARKET dictates it- not a public sector union that gets to vote for its boss.

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  110. john personna says:

    BTW, buy a Kill-a-Watt and do your part. You can knock down that global death rate, starting this week.

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  111. Console says:

    @Joe Smithe:

    Qualifications… let me guess. The military paid for all your training. You jumped ship and now you work a union job where seniority supersedes ability. Not that ability is required to work an auto pilot

    Free market my ass.

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  112. john personna says:

    @Joe Smithe:

    Heh. How do you feel about H-1B visas for Russian pilots?

    You may be a great guy, but you do not have a free market, not in several ways, despite partial deregulation of the airline industry.

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  113. Joe Smithe says:

    @Console:
    Thanks for your response Console- didn’t realize about the pension percentage so I thank you for the correction.

    Bottom line though, is you are being used. They could cut a lot of junk- but instead the point of the article, and my belief all along, is they will cut where it hurts most.

    And I’m not trying to offend you when I say this, but the salaries at the FAA or any other government agency are not in line with the rest of the public sector. I know- I am an employer as well outside of the airline. Heck- where I live, we have 2nd grade PHYS-ED teachers being paid > $120k/year. Talk about a mess.

    As for my airline, I’m not too worried about my position. They will have furloughs I’m sure should this not be fixed.. Thankfully, I learned early on not to trust the airline industry for my financial well being, and can do just fine without it at this point. I’ll be sad as I truly feel I work for a great company with great people, but my family and I will be fine.

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  114. Joe Smithe says:

    @john personna:

    I feel that the government shouldn’t distort markets- whether they are business or labor. I believe in imigration reform, which should allow more people in the country who can do this job just as any other.

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  115. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: You mean is it verboten to mindlessly repeat right wing talking points and then to wallow in a puddle of conservative selp-pity?

    You seem to suffer from two delusions:

    1) The phrase “talking point” is somehow synonymous with “lie.”

    2) That if you declare something a “talking point,” that renders it totally null and void.

    The proper responses to those are:

    1) You’re really that stupid;

    2) You’re not God.

    You’re welcome.

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  116. Joe Smithe says:

    @Console:

    Sorry Console, not close on any account. I am not a military pilot.
    Additionally, its my butt that’s strapped to the aluminum tube with everyone else. When things go bad, you get to watch it all from an office.
    As to the insults regarding “flying the autopilot”, its pretty clear you don’t know too much about flying airplanes, or the requirements to be able to do so professionally.

    As to the free market comment made- it is correct that pilots jobs are unionized. Let me start by saying I am not pro-union. That aside- what is missing, is that if the pilots union takes too much, the company goes BK and everyone is out of work. That is the ultimate check and balance.

    The government doesn’t work that way. When the public sector union takes too much, the government simply raises taxes or borrows more. They can’t go bankrupt, and thus there is no ultimate check and balance.

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  117. Console says:

    @Joe Smithe:

    Meh. lifeguard helicopter pilots, fighter pilots, hell even crop dusters… those tend to be what I think of when I think of skilled pilots. Flight hours or not… you have the cushy job of the professional piloting community. I’m not trying to take away from what you do, but seriously the whole “qualifications, I earned what I have on the free market” nonsense… Hah, wrong industry to pull that card.

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  118. rudderpedals says:

    @Joe Smithe: I think you have a legitimate beef but your anger is better directed towards the folks who sold you a bill of goods about free markets while the invisible hand picked your pocket and you were left without decent pension benefits and an effective way to meet organized capital with organized labor. When you pick out school teachers and ATC it doesn’t sound noble, it sounds jealous.

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  119. Joe Smithe says:

    @Console:

    So, do you think I or anyone else really is able to get the “cushy job of the professional piloting community” without doing what you would consider “skilled” flying? (Sure- there are always a few exceptions, but vastly the answer has been ‘Not a chance’)

    Maybe things have changed at the regionals wrt hiring (the end-game at the Majors doesn’t warrant years of low-pay for many at the regionals), but I don’t remember seeing anyone who exactly walked on to a cushy position 20+ years ago when I started in this crazy field. Wasn’t exactly a cake walk with Eastern, Pan Am, and others in bankruptcy and laying off.

    I’m sorry you are bitter at life because of your furlough- I truly am. I’ve been there myself. If it makes you feel any better, in the end, it made me stronger, as I realized I needed to rely on myself- not the government, nor on any a specific corporation.

    I wish you luck, and hope that you are able to find something that leads to your success.

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  120. Joe Smithe says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Sorry it sounds jealous to you. I can assure you, I’m not. In truth, I tell people I’m quite thankful on a personally selfish level, that everything in the airlines went south. I’m doing much better personally today because of it.

    The point was to stress that government salaries have no bounds, and are skewed- sorry if it didn’t come off that way.

    BTW- I don’t feel I was sold a “bill of goods” wrt the free market- companies go bk- when that happens, things like pensions go away. Government pensions ultimately are no different, when the government finally goes BK- its just that when governments go BK, its an uncontrolled catastrophe for everyone.

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  121. Joe Smithe says:

    @Joe Smithe:

    Correction-
    Meant to say in my above original post-:
    “the salaries at the FAA or any other government agency are not in line with the rest of the private sector”, not public sector. Sorry for the mistake.

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  122. Steve says:

    @anjin-san:

    You never made a coherent argument against the post office

    Not because it does not exist, but because Doug already had that discussion. Rather than rehash that argument on a post about ATC, I linked to it. But thanks for reading …

    And I am still laughing out loud about a liberal accusing a “conservative” about playing the victim card. That’s rich.

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  123. rudderpedals says:

    @Joe Smithe: If auctions mean anything in free markets doesn’t it prove that the fear of US bankruptcy is really out there? Then you’d be beating on these govt employees out of sheer malice.

    Why hasn’t the free market provided you a better standard of living and better expectations even though you’re more productive and more stressed than ever?

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  124. Console says:

    @Joe Smithe:

    Not really that bitter. I work with too many former regional jet pilots to even remotely envy that system. Which is exactly why I scoff at any high seniority airline pilot.

    That’s sort of the point. Your position exists almost entirely due to seniority and the culture of piloting. Not because you are some hot shot pilot. Because the reality is that there is some regional jet pilot out there just as qualified to do what you do, but doesn’t because of the way seniority works. For a controller to go from some regional approach control to fully working a place like New York TRACON where they wash out 4 in 5 controllers takes actual skill. To go from regional jet pilot to flying a heavy for big money just takes time. So of course I’m going to laugh my ass off when you come in here trying to seriously talk as though you are above government employees. Most of you owe your training hours to the government (be it through the military or the fact that general aviation is close to a free rider on the system) and your status to your union.

    Yeah, I’m getting furloughed but that cost doesn’t magically fall solely on the FAA or myself. That’s really where I wanted to go with this. Everyone loves to think they earned what they have, but the reality is that what you have is highly dependent on other people. There are no airlines without air traffic. Good luck trying to square your lust for cuts with reality.

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  125. anjin-san says:

    @ Steve

    You opened the door to the post office discussion. Stop bitching because someone went through it.

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  126. Joe Smithe says:

    @Console:
    Not sure how seniority has anything to do with me not being a regional jet pilot (I flew turbo-props for years, applied, and then was hired at the bottom of the carrier I now work for)
    but, apparently, you have all the answers. I have problems with seniority and unions, and regardless of how little your respect airline pilots, as for me the majority of my income comes from the free market outside of flying.

    GA a free ride? Funny. Truth is, GA doesn’t need you guys for 95% of the flying that’s done.

    Forgetting abut qualifications, the bottom line is that your union negotiates against people who have everything to gain to give you raises at taxpayer expense. You vote for your bosses (politicians).

    I guess you have all the answers though- your salary, benefits and pension clearly are not negotiable, and something everyone must pay for at any expense. After all, “we owe you”. I realize that clearly, people such as yourselves have disdain for the free market and feel that the government is your savior. The truth is quite the opposite, but like I said I guess you have all the answers.

    Good luck.

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  127. Joe Smithe says:

    @rudderpedals:
    To your answer-
    Yes, it does show the concern for US BK.
    Not sure I understand your point- mine is that out of control public sector unions have driven up costs that are unsustainable- I’m not sure how that is malice,

    As for the free market-
    I am actually doing far, far better now than when I was just an airline pilot. The reason being, I make my living in the free market outside of aviation.

    So in fact, the free market HAS given me a better standard of living and better expectations. The only thing that is most limiting, is government interference with the free market I operate in by increasing taxes and injecting poorly enacted regulation that does not serve any purpose other than to regulate.

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  128. Joe Smithe says:

    @Console:
    “That’s really where I wanted to go with this. Everyone loves to think they earned what they have, but the reality is that what you have is highly dependent on other people. ”

    Ok, I see-
    “You didn’t build that!”.
    I guess we just have a fundamental difference of opinion.

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  129. Joe Smithe says:

    A couple more things for Console:

    1). I don’t envy the current airline system- then again, I don’t really make my living from it anymore either,

    2) I’m not debating the skill and expertise needed to handle something such as New York TRACON. I see that world regularly. The reaction is that controllers at even small GA airports have salaries and benefits that are highly bloated. In the free market, stars are well compensated, and non-stars for the most part aren’t- but it doesn’t seem to work that way in government, or in union jobs (airline jobs included). But at least airline pilots have to live within the means of their company- where govt employees apparently do not.

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  130. Steve says:

    @anjin-san: Okay, then. Since you “”walked through the door” and insist on debating an unrelated issue and are unwilling to take that issue as the analogy it was intended to be, I will discuss.

    Though you say that no “free market genies” would pop up to deliver mail to rural areas, are you suggesting that nobody would ever delivery to rural areas? Or that the higher price required to make it cost effective for a non-USPS company is unacceptable to you? Those are two entirely different questions. I would be surprised to hear that, regardless of cost, no company would deliver to rural areas as you seem to suggest. Unless you are approaching the argument with the preconceived notion that the only acceptable option is the USPS model of equal cost and subsidized rural delivery.

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  131. Joe Smithe says:

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 19:02

    I hit post too quickly above- sorry.
    A couple more things for Console:

    1). I don’t envy the current airline system- then again, I don’t really make my living from it anymore either,

    2) Your statement about all that’s needed is hours to move up in aviation is grossly inaccurate. There are a lot of old timers that can’t move past the regionals- effectively, they “wash out” when trying to get to the majors- just like your example with New York TRACON for controllers. Once at an airline the seniority system does breed mediocrity to a degree, and creates other issues. That much is true- but the main point is in #3 below.

    3) I’m not debating the skill and expertise needed to handle something such as New York TRACON. I see that world regularly. The reaction is that controllers at even small GA airports have salaries and benefits that are highly bloated. In the free market, stars are well compensated, and non-stars for the most part aren’t- but it doesn’t seem to work that way in government, or in union jobs (airline jobs included to a degree). But at least airline pilots have to live within the means of their company- where govt employees apparently do not.

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  132. anjin-san says:

    @ Steve

    You could give privatizing rural deliver a try. Problem is, if it does not turn out to be viable, the private provider will simply pull the plug. They are in it for profit, not as a public service. Then the residents who depend on delivery are screwed, and there is nothing for them to fall back on.

    There is also the issue that mail delivery, though it is becoming outdated, is still critical for millions of people. How about the handicapped & senior citizens who depend on the USPS for prescriptions that keep them alive – should they be at the not so tender mercies of an outfit like Bain Capital?

    Republicans have been hard at work breaking the post office. Then they turn around and say “It’s broken, shut it down.” If this model for deconstructing government works, they can simply repeat the process.

    So, the question is, are you a dupe or a tool?

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  133. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Can you show me where I “used” the air system this week?

    Did you get anything in the mail?

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  134. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I addressed that above. I did order a couple things on-line this week, but I chose the cheapest shipping options.

    I did not choose priority-air.

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  135. Steve says:

    @anjin-san:

    So, the question is, are you a dupe or a tool?

    I could ask the same of you. You propose an example that comprises probably a small fraction of a pecentage of rural delivery. A typical tactic of small-minded liberals. Let’s not address the problem on the whole. Instead, we will pick an obscure issue to tug at heart strings and have our whole public policy guided by that exception. Perhaps the government could compel the pharmaceutical industry to provide home delivery in certain situations. This way, your hypothetical scenario is resolved. One need not prop up the entire nationwide postal service simply to provide medication to .001 percent of the popoulation who are truly destitute and live in rural places which would make it fisacally impossible for them to pay the extra cost for delivery of life-saving medications.

    So, the question is, are you a dupe or a tool of the USPS?

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  136. anjin-san says:

    pick an obscure issue

    Do you have any data on how many people use US mail for prescription deliveries? What percentage of them have mobility and/or travel issues? This affects people in major cities, not just out on the farm.

    My wife and I take care of relatives that are elderly and/or disabled. I can assure you, it’s not “obscure” if you are the one who has difficulties getting around and you need a prescription to stay alive.

    But, you are a conservative. So, let me think like a conservative for a moment. “This does not affect me and mine. Oh, your granny out on the farm died last week because she could not get her pills? That’s rough.”

    I also note you have ducked the issue of the rather significant relationships between USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

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  137. anjin-san says:

    @ Steve

    So, the question is, are you a dupe or a tool of the USPS?

    USPS has provided a useful, sometimes critical, service to me pretty much every day for over 50 years. It has proven its value. Please explain how my favoring it’s continued existence makes me a “dupe” or a “tool”…

    Or, you could present a credible plan for replacing it without harming millions of our fellow citizens.

    I will stand by.

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  138. Steve says:

    @anjin-san:

    credible plan for replacing it without harming millions of our fellow citizens.

    How will millions be “harmed” by paying what it actually costs to deliver items to their home? Or is your definition of “harm” anytime people are asked to do something for themselves. Are you the same person who was accusing me of espousing the victim mentality? Who exactly are the victims unless your definition of being a victimg in no longer being provided something at low or no cost paid for by others. Is that kind of like how not increasing spending is a “cut” to services?

    I am standing by.

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  139. wr says:

    @Joe Smithe: “I don’t feel I was sold a “bill of goods” wrt the free market- companies go bk- when that happens, things like pensions go away.”

    Well, there’s your bill of goods right there. Pensions don’t just “go away.” Pensions are stolen when executives loot pension plans. Apparently they’ve done a good job of convincing you that this is somehow good for you and your fellow employees, even as they make sure their own golden parachutes never fall below the tens of millions of dollars.

    I’m sure you’re an intelligent person. If you are what you say you are, there’s no way you could have accomplished all this without intelligence. And yet you’ve decided to let a bunch of self-serving crooks steal from you and convince you that it’s good because it makes you stronger.

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  140. anjin-san says:

    How will millions be “harmed” by paying what it actually costs to deliver items to their home?

    You do understand that millions of senior citizens and disabled folks are on fixed incomes, don’t you? That quite a few of them are just scraping by, and a few dollars more might be a few dollars they just don’t have? Or is your postion that 89 year olds and people in wheelchairs need to do more because it might save you six bucks on your tax bill?

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  141. Joe Smithe says:

    @wr:
    Hi wr- I do agree with you in part- Pensions can be stolen by executives who loot plans. This is NOT a function of the free market, but of a law/govt system which allows criminality to thrive at the highest levels.

    So honestly, I have not been convinced that is a good thing because it made me stronger. It may have had that effect, but the criminality of what I have seen on large corporate and governmental levels is quite disgusting.

    However, pensions also go away when unions demand so much that companies truly can’t afford them. In the case of govt employees, my mistake here was that what I really should have started the thread with was:

    Why can’t the controllers work a normal schedule, but just be paid less and have their pensions/benefits adjusted? That’s what happens to those of us in the private sector who’s companies fall on tough times. We take pay cuts, our pensions are cut, and so is our medical.
    Its called “Reality”.
    The airline needs to fly, so pilots do the same work for less money. Otherwise, the option is bankruptcy, where we can make zero. Why doesn’t the same principal apply to government employees?

    BTW- 4 years with the FAA yields a salary of ~$100k/year. Retirement is at 56. When compared with the private sector, anyone knowledgable would have to admit public sector compensation (at private sector expense) has gotten way out of control.

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