Liberals Lament That FAA Waiver Shows Government Has Enough Money to Do Its Job

Over at Talking Points Memo, Brian Beutler is torn up over the willingness of the Senate to pass a waiver to sequestration rules for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Late last night it took a break from its regular schedule of lacking 60 votes to shampoo the chamber carpet and unanimously passed a bill that will provide the FAA unique flexibility under sequestration — and thus halt the furloughs that have been causing travel delays around the country. Today the House will follow suit, and the White House has made it clear President Obama intends to sign it. Great if you fly. Bad, bad news if you’re on head start or rely on meals on wheels or otherwise aren’t a Priority Pass holder.

Aside the obvious iniquity, this is a big error.

The point of sequestration is supposedly to create just enough chaos that regular people — people with political clout, such as, say, business travelers — demand that Congress fix it. Or as the Democrats conceived it, to create the public pressure they need to knock Republicans off their absolutist position on taxes.

More here.

Having apparently missed out on the decades-old deregulation of airline-ticket pricing, Beutler implicitly equates the mundane act of flying with, I don't know, wearing monocles, lighting cigars with $100 bills, and other excresences of capitalism only available to the super-rich. This, despite the fact that over 80 percent of Americans have flown.

The original point of sequestration, or automatic, across-the-board cuts urged by Barack Obama, was to provide a spur to force Congress to come up with a specific (yet tiny) level of spending cuts that were agreed to as part of a barely remembered debt-limit deal. When that didn't happen - despite plenty of time and delays - the result is that around 1 percent to 2 percent of total federal spending is being trimmed in fiscal 2013. But don't worry: The feds are on track to spend more this year than last year even when you factor in sequestration. And for all the fretting over minor spending trims that are routinely described as barbaric and brutal and unconscionable, the long list of programs exempted from sequestration ensures that nobody is going to go hungry or naked due to cuts amounting to around $44 billion in this fiscal year. Sadly, that statement is also true for the Department of Defense and its contractors, who are taking the single-biggest hit but still doing quite fine.

So it turns out that the FAA has enough money in its cut-to-the-bone budget to keep planes flying as if nothing happened - all it has to do is shift dollars from a useless activity to one that actually has an impact. The ease with which the FAA apparently can do that underscores the real fear of sequestration opponents: People will realize that a federal budget of around $3.6 trillion - or roughly double the amount that was spent in nominal dollars the last year Bill Clinton was in office (and 50 percent more in constant 2012 dollars) - is plenty big enough to cover all core government functions even if you think the government should do just about everything. 

And in case you're wondering, air traffic control is not a core government function. Back in 2009, Reason's Bob Poole explained how the FAA is using ridiculously outmoded technology to direct flights, even as Canada has fully demonstrated that spinning off that function to the airlines is better and more efficient. Indeed, "commercializing" air traffic control even has the support of characters such as Al Gore:

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  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm flabbergasted that people openly talk about the games being played in the almost imperceptible sequester. I mean, sure, it's all obvious, but to openly say what's going on seems supremely stupid. Because if you rub people's faces in it enough, they're going to realize that even deeper cuts are possible without actually losing "essential" government services.

  • John Thacker||

    I wonder if the guy realizes that guys like him openly publicizing this strategy are the reason that the Democrats surrendered, rather than pretending that the sequester had to be reversed in order to prevent the furloughs.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The one thing that protects us from total tyranny and economic collapse is that our adversaries are so stupid.

  • John Thacker||

    Usually our allies are stupid. I'm amazed that the Dems screwed this up instead of the GOP.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "The point of sequestration is supposedly to create just enough chaos that regular people — people with political clout, such as, say, business travelers — demand that Congress fix it. Or as the Democrats conceived it, to create the public pressure they need to knock Republicans off their absolutist position on taxes."

    Wow.

  • Pro Libertate||

    How about knocking someone off of their absolutist position that you can spend trillions more than you have?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Yeah. I thought the point of the sequester was to lower the deficit.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ha! Fooled you again, Monkey Boy!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I also thought the point of the draft was to pick players.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also wrong! It's about ESPN hyping players that no one in their right mind would pick!

  • John||

    They have done statistical analysis of the draft and time and time again shown there is no rhyme or reason to it. There is just no way to tell who is going to do well and who won't. GMs that are known to be horrible have had great drafts. GMs who are known and remembered as some of the greatest minds in football history have had multiple years where their drafts were horrible.

    For example, everyone remembers the 1974 Steelers draft where they got five HOFers. But they don't remember the 73 and 75 drafts where the same people drafted virtually no productive players.

    Basically, you could draw names out of a hat or let your fans pick the players by internet vote and probably do just as well.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Whats the percentage of HoF from the 1st round as compared to the 3rd?

  • John||

    True, the higher round picks do better overall. But no one seems to know which of the higher round picks will do well and which won't.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think you have to view the draft as a whole, and not get fixated on the first round or even one or two players. Draft for need and for your system and expect the unexpected.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And do some serious research before you draft. I'm amazed at how many picks are based on conventional wisdom than on watching tape.

    And screw "potential," especially in the first three rounds. Draft based on productivity.

  • John||

    You say that but then there are tons of examples of guys who were unproductive in college who became great in the pros. There is just no full proof way to do it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Play the odds, and you'll do fine. Teams that keep trying to gamble in the draft regularly fail.

  • John||

    They fall in love with guys who are big and athletic. They do it every time. I call it (Sorry to say this to a UF Fan) Huey Richardson syndrome. Huey Richardson played for UF in the late 80s. And he was a complete freak and work out warrior. The Steelers took him in the first round only to find out that while he was a physical freak, he had no idea how to play football, had terrible technique, took plays off and only looked good in college because he was just so much bigger and faster than everyone. In the NFL where he was no longer bigger and faster his terrible technique and double digit IQ made him pretty much useless.

    Time and time again they make the same mistake.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I remember him. He was insanely good in college, so I could see a team not seeing his flaws. But I get what you mean.

  • John||

    They always think they can coach a guy how to play football. And some they can. But a lot they can't.

  • John Thacker||

    But surely you understand how a professional team would end up believing that they could teach someone better technique.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And, of course, sometimes they can. The flip side of this is that teams often give up on players way too early, especially since they have some developmental options.

  • John||

    Every coach thinks the coaches in the level below them are idiots. College coaches do the same thing. They think if a guy has bad technique it is because their coaches were idiots. That is true sometimes. But sometimes it is because the player is an idiot.

  • The Last American Hero||

    See also Aaron Curry.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    Check out the Barnwell draft article from yesterday or the day before. It was pretty good.

  • John||

    Wow is so right. They are admitting that they intentionally tried to make things worse for political purposes. At one time, this would have been kind of a big deal.

  • NoVAHockey||

    They're convinced they'll never lose an election again.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's actually a big deal now. I think the left has dramatically underestimated the consequences of letting the mask slip in so many areas. It's a damned shame the GOP isn't more libertarian, because the opportunity to right the ship has come.

  • John||

    I hope so. They went insane in the 00s. And we are stuck with the two party system. Both parties are going to be in charge at some point. It does no good to have one go completely batshit insane rather than just the usual incompetence and dishonesty.

    They need to have a couple of soul destroying defeats to get them to snap out of it.

  • Sevo||

    "Wow is so right. They are admitting that they intentionally tried to make things worse for political purposes. At one time, this would have been kind of a big deal."

    If it had been Bush, the screams for impeachment would jump off the front page of the NYT.

  • PapayaSF||

    No kidding....

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Beutler implicitly equates the mundane act of flying with, I don't know, wearing monocles, lighting cigars with $100 bills, and other excresences of capitalism only available to the super-rich. This, despite the fact that over 80 percent of Americans have flown.

    Well, I am a monocle toting libertarian, and will be flying to Detroit in the next month or two to earn more money.

  • ||

    Detroit residents, protect your children now!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    That's only necessary if your children include redheaded girls 18-30. Or if your children don't like factory work.

  • ||

    having orphans light your cigars with $100 bills

    Besides this was pre-inflation. Now we play tiddlywinks with platinum coins.

  • John Thacker||

    Even with the sequestration of funds, the FAA budget is still higher for 2013 than the original 2013 Obama budget request. So it's pretty obvious that, given flexibility, the FAA could work around this.

    What's remarkable is how quickly the Dem Senators folded once this became an issue, instead of the GOP folding and acquiescing to more spending. I knew that the Dems had the poor side of the facts; I just didn't expect them to lose the politics.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    JT, what don't you understand about 'cut'? They've been cut. To. The. Bone.

  • Irish||

    The point of sequestration is supposedly to create just enough chaos that regular people — people with political clout, such as, say, business travelers — demand that Congress fix it. Or as the Democrats conceived it, to create the public pressure they need to knock Republicans off their absolutist position on taxes.

    This is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. They openly admit that the actual monetary cut is irrelevant, and that they are trying to make it hurt as much as possible. Scum.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Firemen First"

  • Doctor Whom||

    The mask slips now and then.

  • BigT||

    Make it hurt is the definition of caring, responsible government.

  • Doctor Whom||

    The point of sequestration is supposedly to create just enough chaos that regular people — people with political clout, such as, say, business travelers — demand that Congress fix it. Or as the Democrats conceived it, to create the public pressure they need to knock Republicans off their absolutist position on taxes.

    * * * They allowed Republicans to inaccurately characterize the FAA furloughs as a political stunt.

    A is not A.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Where's Ronald Reagan when you need him?

  • Ken Shultz||

    "On August 5, following the PATCO workers' refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order,[6][7] and banned them from federal service for life."

    Can you imagine something like that happening today?

    "They were replaced initially with nonparticipating controllers, supervisors, staff personnel, some nonrated personnel, and in some cases by controllers transferred temporarily from other facilities. Some military controllers were also used until replacements could be trained.

    The FAA had initially claimed that staffing levels would be restored within two years; however, it would take closer to ten years before the overall staffing levels returned to normal.[2]"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....981_strike

    I flew all over the place in those ten years, and I never missed out on a flight because there weren't enough air traffic controllers.

    Things are a lot more automated than they used to be back then, too. If staffing levels are up, then we should probably lay off another 11,000 air traffic controllers. ...and if the FAA doesn't like it, then they should find someplace to cut the budget elsewhere.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Profits before people"

    Classic Marxism.

  • A Serious Man||

    Ed Thibodeau • 6 hours ago −
    I'm a union rep, and a lot of my members work in housing authorities in Connecticut. They are all getting hit with layoffs as result of the sequester, but no one gives a shit about them or the people they serve. But God forbid the private jet owners and traveling senators be inconvenienced! We can't stand for that!

    Obama should veto this. If they won't fix the sequester for everyone, they shouldn't fix it for anyone.

    Won't someone think of the parasites?!

  • John Thacker||

    Obama's against every agency having flexibility, of course, since then he would take the blame for any cuts made.

  • Irish||

    But God forbid the private jet owners and traveling senators be inconvenienced! We can't stand for that!

    Yes, the only people harmed by massive waits at the airport are private jet owners and traveling senators. There is absolutely no economic cost to the airlines or any other individuals as a result of these waits.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    It is amazing how quickly the US is sinking into statism. I mean, I know most progladytes the world over still think the US is some free market darwinistic jungle but reality just isn't that.

    I have grown up in Canada and always thought of the US as a beautiful free market paradise where there is so much variety in everything and economic opportunity. Basically I have always wanted to take advantage of my dual citizenship with the US and move there to settle.

    The more I pay attention to the US's politics, however, the more I find that it is not much better and sometimes worse off than Canada economically. I despise the gun laws here and the general socialist attitude of the people I know (and lack of variety in things ranging from BBQ sauce to TV providers), but the US is starting to lose me with their ultra statist trajectory. WHERE IS MY LIBERTOPIA??

  • Irish||

    The more I pay attention to the US's politics, however, the more I find that it is not much better and sometimes worse off than Canada economically.

    That's because the free market America only exists in the fever dreams of left-wingers. The US is probably less free economically than Canada is. This is particularly true at the local level, where cities will basically shut down businesses for whatever reason they feel like.

    It's becoming borderline impossible to start a small business with the level of regulation in this country. Then liberals wonder why there are no small businesses.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's becoming borderline impossible to start a small business with the level of regulation in this country.

    Yup. This is why the economy is in the shitter. It's not the taxes (though they don't help), and it's not deficit spending (though it doesn't help), it's the fact that people in government feel that it is their duty to prevent economic activity. That's all regulation does. It prevents people from engaging in profitable economic activity. When you have tens of thousands of people going around and regulating everything, the result is an economy in the shitter.

  • Irish||

    I maintain that the dumbest thing the Democrats did was pass Dodd-Frank and Obamacare when the economy was still so weak. One of the big problems with the economy right now is that businesses, even when they're sitting on large amounts of money, are unwilling to hire people, and banks are unwilling to lend, even given favorable conditions.

    So lending had dried up, and Obama and the Dems decided to place an entirely new regulatory regime on top of an already non-existent and stifled lending situation, thus further stopping banks from lending.

    At the same time, businesses would not hire because they were unsure of what would happen in the future and didn't want to invest in personnel in a weak economy. The Dem's response? Pass a health care bill which no one understands, thus forcing businesses to spend money figuring out how to comply with the law, as well as raising the cost of personnel.

    It's just unbelievably idiotic that they passed those two laws when they did, with the economy as weak as it was.

  • ||

    It's just unbelievably idiotic that they passed those two laws when they did, with the economy as weak as it was.

    Their goal was to get it passed and gain control, not to help the economy. They do not give one fuck about the well-being of their fellow Americans. All they care about is control. From their perspective, it made perfect sense to pass those laws when they did.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    it made perfect sense to pass those laws when they did.

    I believe you are correct. The actual goal of the left is control. The best way to control a people is to make damned sure they are as dependent on support as possible. So, during a down economy when people are filing for unemployment/foodstamps/etc in record numbers, the last thing you want is these new leaches getting a job and no longer being dependent on the state.

  • sarcasmic||

    On the other hand, the view could be that since the economy is in the shitter, the best thing to do is give health care to all those unemployed people.

    Remember that these fools in Washington believe that legislation is magical. They really do. By passing Obamacare, they really and truly believe that this magical bill creates a basic right to health care for everyone, and fills it as well.

    "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."

    --Thomas Sowell

  • ||

    I don't think they believe legislation is magical. They're drawn to legislation like flies to shit because the end result of legislation is force. What they really truly deeply believe in is telling other people what to do.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    It is amazing how revisionist history has taken over in the minds of most.

    I mean we just came off a century where communism/socialism/fascism was the cause of 100 million deaths and an untold amount of wealth destruction.

    The century before that, we saw the largest growth of the regular man's wealth in the history of the human race, all due to deregulated free markets taking control in the United States.

    Somehow though, the 19th century was the robber baron century and the 20th century was the pinnacle of human social evolution through the new deal.

  • Sevo||

    ..."but no one gives a shit about them"...
    Absolutely not true! I give a shit about them and I'm quite pleased they're laid off!
    Maybe they can find a job.

  • A Serious Man||

    Ed Thibodeau • 6 hours ago −
    I'm a union rep, and a lot of my members work in housing authorities in Connecticut. They are all getting hit with layoffs as result of the sequester, but no one gives a shit about them or the people they serve. But God forbid the private jet owners and traveling senators be inconvenienced! We can't stand for that!

    Obama should veto this. If they won't fix the sequester for everyone, they shouldn't fix it for anyone.

    Won't someone think of the parasites?!

  • John||

    I have to be honest, it is terrible of me but I am enjoying the tears of the federal workers I know over furloughs. I actually live within my means and it won't really affect me that much. I really don't care. And I should feel bad for people. But I can't help but enjoy listening to several Obama voting friends talk about how horrible this is.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    the White House has made it clear President Obama intends to sign it.

    He's so dreamy! See how much he loves us?

    What a mendacious shitgobbler.

  • ||

    The bitching and moaning at TPM is delicious.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    took a break from its regular schedule of lacking 60 votes to shampoo the chamber carpet

    Well done.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    They need some sort of option to end the filibuster once and for all. Like the way the a-bombs ended WW2.

  • Ted S.||

    What they need is for all filibusters to be Rand Paul-style, or at least reading from the phone book while every bit of Senate business is shut down.

    Currently, it's like that episode of Star Trek where Kirk puts the Enterprise in orbit around a planet that's having a mathematical war with its neighboring planet: instead of real weapons, the planets use mathematical algorithms to determine how many people will be "killed in action" and then execute those people. Of course, the algorithm eventually calcuates that the Enterprise gets destroyed....

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I think you missed the joke.

  • Fluffy||

    They are admitting that they intentionally tried to make things worse for political purposes.

    They've admitted for decades that they won't means-test Social Security and Medicare purely and solely for the political purpose of maintaining support for the program "across class lines".

  • John||

    Good example. Many liberals also admit they support the draft even though they know it is unjust and would actually hurt the military because they think it would get people to be less likely to support wars.

  • sarcasmic||

    Of course they support the draft. The draft is a use of force that is theoretically applied equally. They love force and they love things being applied equally, thus they love the draft.

  • Redmanfms||

    Many liberals also admit they support the draft even though they know it is unjust and would actually hurt the military because they think it would get people to be less likely to support wars.

    Ironic considering the Left's history with war...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "I'm a middle class parasite, and I VOTE!"

  • Fatty Bolger||

    So I'm curious, was this bill actually necessary, or did the Senate do it to force Obama's hand? Does the FAA (or DOT) have so little control over its own spending that it can't move spending from one area to another?

  • John Thacker||

    They had a limited ability to move spending from one area to another, some 5% of program funds. This is because the Legislative Branch does like to control funds, and not just let the Executive Branch truly have a blank check.

    There was some disagreement about whether or not the FAA could have avoided the furloughs without this. Now there's no question.

  • John||

    The sequester mandates that every program and every line item in the budget be cut by the same percentage. This prevents agencies from eliminating some things to keep from cutting really important things. This bill allows them to choose their cuts across the entire agency so that they don't have to cut staff time by 10% and can make up for that by cutting more than that in other areas.

    Back in January, the House passed a bill that would have allowed Obama to do this in every agency. And he refused to support it and the Senate refused to bring it up because they were afraid it would lessen the effects of the sequester.

  • ||

    I think that's correct. My understanding is that all the sequester "cuts" were intentionally indiscriminate and to be spread equally, without any prioritization allowed.

  • Virginian||

    So the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and the guys who watch for hostile ICBMs are both taking six minutes off every hour?

  • Spoonman.||

    A lot of programs were exempted, but it's probably equally likely that the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and ICBM watchdogs were on that list...

  • thom||

    Both can probably knock off work for six minutes every hour with no issue.

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