Instapundit: Sequester Shows Blunt Cuts Work; Plus: Privatize Air Traffic Control


Glenn Instapundit Reynolds makes two sequester-related points in his latest USA Today column. The first:

Critics of across-the-board cuts always say that we should make "smart cuts" instead of using a "meat axe." But the reason why we have a ballooning national debt is that our politicians are clearly incapable of making "smart cuts."

When my own state, Tennessee, was facing budget difficulties a few years ago, our then-governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, ordered across-the-board cuts. Nobody liked it, but it brought things under control. Many other states have responded to budget difficulties in similar fashion. So why not try more of it at the national level?

And second:

Whatever politicians control, they will use against you to get what they want. The furloughs weren't a reasoned effort to save money: They were an attempt to punish voters for not approving tax increases. If the politicians could have shut down ESPN and blamed insufficient revenue, they would have done that, too.

But they don't control ESPN. And, really, there's no reason why they should control the air traffic control system, either. Why not privatize it?

As Reynolds points out, that's what Canada did, to strong reviews.

Here's a 2009 Reason TV video explaining how that would work:

NEXT: Ron Paul: Militarized Response More Frightening Than the Boston Bombing

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  1. With priority based budgeting, you dont even have to make smart cuts, if you make smart priority choices.

    When cuts need to be made, the lower priority items automatically get cut.

    1. Why do you hate children Rob?

      1. They hated me first.

      2. because they are the future. unless we stop them now.

  2. Hey Reason, you should offer Glenn a free subscription to the magazine. Next time he’ll credit Nick and Veronique.

  3. Every single federal agency is grossly overstaffed. You could order a 20% across the board cut in staff tomorrow and there would be no noticeable change in government services. Don’t ever let them tell you they are overworked. It is complete bullshit.

    The only governmental entity that is understaffed and overworked, are go to war units in the military. But even that could be solved by reducing the layers and layers of useless bullshit positions in the rear.

    1. Federal agencies really are just make-work programs for bureaucrats.

      1. In some ways yes. Not even make work. More like ready built empires for politicals and SES employees. I don’t think anyone created it with the desire of providing the bureaucrats with jobs. They created it so that the people at the top of each agency could feel important.

        What is the fun of running some small agency?

  4. Anyone remember how during the Obamacare debate liberals claimed that there were huge savings to be had by cutting evil insurance company bureaucracies? Funny how there is so much bloat in private sector bureaucracies but the federal one can’t be touched without drastic consequences. Just a lean mean fighting machine those feds.

    1. It’s also funny how the specter of private sector monopolies drives so much left-wing angst, even though there virtually are no private sector monopolies, but anyone who argues against public sector monopolies is a dangerous anarchist.

      The other day, Josh Barro, the son of awesome conservative economist Robert Barro, wrote something about how we should privatize the air traffic controllers. One of the first comments was ‘How can you argue in favor of creating a system in which the person willing to charge the least will get control of air traffic control?!?!’ as if charging more inherently assures higher quality.

      By liberal logic, plasma screen T.V.s must have seen a sharp decline in quality over the last ten years since the price dropped by approximately $13,000.

      1. They are either incapable or unwilling to understand that price isn’t the only determinative factor in the market. They operate under the assumption that someone could take over the air traffic control market with a cheap system that wasn’t safe, as if the airlines would never notice or care that the system was killing their customers.

        I have no idea if they are that stupid or just that dishonest. Either way the result is the same.

      2. They’d just argue that people don’t need plasma TVs, so it doesn’t matter if the crummy free market sells a crappy one every now and then. But a single bad air traffic controller would kill eleventy billion children, so they have to be government employees because in magic liberal land public employees are not only accountable, but also the very best at what they do since they’re not motivated by evil money so much as they are public service.

  5. Any of the hosers out there know how the private Canadian ATC collects fees? Particularly from general aviation? If you use their services do they send you a bill or do you call and pay in advance? Do you buy a subscription/monthly fee?

    Interesting to see how they skinned that cat.

    1. You mean Canada has a private ATC system? My God, how are there not planes falling from the sky every week? This can’t be true.

    2. Maybe they charge by weight?

    3. My guess is that the airports pay them, the airlines pay the airport, the customers pay the airlines.

    4. Monthly billing for charges accumulated in the previous month. See here.

      1. Interesting. Thanks.

        Seems pretty reasonable for GA. Looks like about $68/year for a light aircraft.

  6. Also, I’d say that Nav Canada is really a monopoly backed by the government. It’s not like there are competing ATC companies in Canada.

    1. I don’t see how air traffic control outside of airport traffic pattern direction can be privatized without some bullshit public-private monopoly enterprise. The only option is some completely voluntary cooperative systems that airlines and general aviation participate in at will.

      1. Like lighthouses used to be?

      2. How can you have an air traffic control system that only controls some planes? If you don’t control all of them, you can’t really do much to prevent accidents.

        1. Air traffic control doesn’t control VFR operations in most places anyway. So the planes use good old fashioned navigational right of way rules.

      3. But even a bullshit public-private monopoly is better than a federal agency.

    2. Yeah, I’m not sure how you keep the cost down and efficiency up without competition? And for the life of me, I can’t come up with a way to introduce competition into the system since corroboration would be required between competing entities.

      1. You don’t need competition in every market. Other markets and other means can compete with the market you are talking about.

        Suppose you throw the system over to the private sector. The airlines have to fly and they have to fly safely. The airports need the airlines to fly or they close down. So everyone has a reason to make this work. So what happens is the airports get together and divide the airspace up between them. They then pay the ATC and pass the costs of that onto the airlines in the form of landing fees. The airports have every reason to keep costs down because they can’t charge too high of landing fees or they will lose flights. And the airports also have every reason to maintain a good system because no one will fly if planes start crashing. They enforce this system by every major airport in the country agreeing to join the cartel and make joining the cartel the price of having planes taking off from your airport being able to land anywhere.

        Now that is a huge monopoly and violates a ton of anti-trust provisions. But so what? Sometimes a cartel is needed to make things work. Reason number one million why anti-trust law is a complete waste of time.

  7. “If the politicians could have shut down ESPN and blamed insufficient revenue, they would have done that, too.”

    Last year, when the opposition here in Guyana cut the State TV budget, the govt responded by stopping broadcasts of sports they’d bought the rights to and blamed the opposition for cutting the funding needed to buy the rights.

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