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Of the extensive parade of horribles the White House has been insisting will occur as a result of the sequestration cuts in early March, impediments to Americans’ ability to travel are among the most ridiculous. Not to say that these things won’t happen - secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is already reporting that airport lines have nearly doubled - but they are in fact the result of political game playing in order to make Republicans look bad by enacting highly visible reductions in services, rather than the necessary consequences of imaginary cuts.
The Obama Administration has warned that a $600 million dollar reduction in the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration is dangerous and foolish, but as usual when the Administration talks about cuts they are really referring to reductions in planned increases in spending. In fact, the FAA only requested a budget of $15.172 billion for fiscal year 2013. After the $600 million dollar “reduction,” the amount they actually received was $15.999 billion. This is not what most Americans have in mind when the media is portraying spending cuts as being draconian and austere.
But maybe the demands on the FAA have increased in recent years and they need the extra cash to keep up with the modern business of air travel. Well, the facts do not really bear this out. If we examine the budget for the FAA in fiscal year 2008, we can see that they only received $14.077 billion in that year, which adjusted for inflation comes out to $15.056 billion in today’s dollars. That’s almost a billion dollars less than the FAA received this year, and yet the amount of air travel in 2008 was significantly heavier than it is today.
The average monthly number of scheduled domestic passenger flights in 2008 was 54,309. By 2012, that number had fallen to just 53,730. So the bottom line is that we are looking at an agency being given a billion dollars more to manage nearly 6,000 fewer flights a year, and yet we are expected to believe that longer lines and more delays are unavoidable.
It is clear what is going on here. In the light of the leaked email from the Department of Agriculture stating “however you manage the reduction, you need to make sure that it does not contradict what we said the impact would be,” it is obvious that there is a deliberate effort being made to inconvenience Americans purely for the sake of the budget fight in Washington.
It is shameful and childish for the administration to use these scare tactics to manipulate the American people, when they should be focussed on the business of governing and finding real solutions to the country’s fiscal problems. In the end it won’t matter which party gets the blame if we are unable to prevent the nation from sliding into bankruptcy. It’s time to put a stop to the hyperbole and fear-mongering over what amounts to a barely one percent budget impact of the sequester. If this is the amount of hysteria we see over so small a change, how can we ever expect to make the meaningful reforms necessary to our continued growth and prosperity?