Obama Holds Air Travelers Hostage in Sequester Showboating
The Opening Salvo Before Debt Ceiling Vote
Now we know the Obama administration really meant it when it launched its sequester cut scare campaign back in February.
Starting on Monday, sequester-related furlough of air-traffic controllers caused flight delays of up to four hours.
According to the Washington Post, the worst delays were expected at major hub airports, including three in New York, two in Chicago, and airports serving Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale.
The Post reported that about 1,500 controllers—10 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration’s controller workforce—were required to take an unpaid day off on Monday. Additional furloughs of Transportation Security Administration workers were causing backups at security checkpoints during peak hours.
The air traffic controller cut back is the latest chapter in the Obama administration’s cynical ploy to make the public pay for even the smallest cuts in federal spending. The next shoe to drop will be outright demonization of the Republican majority in the House and anyone else who opposes increases in federal spending.
This is all a prelude to the vote on raising the national debt ceiling due next month. In January, Congress voted to extend the debt ceiling with the caveat that a showdown vote would occur on May 19.
We should have seen the air traveler crisis coming. Recall President Obama’s sky-is-falling rhetoric when he warned that the sequester would have dire consequences across the board. We were told repeatedly that nothing was off limits. Teachers would be laid off. Children would not get their vaccinations. Law enforcement would be curtailed.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano led the charge. At the time, she warned that automatic spending cuts would lead to delays and long lines at airports across the nation.
“I don’t mean to scare, I mean to inform,” she said.
Now we know she met both. The nation’s air control system handles about 23,000 flights a day. The Federal Aviation Administration has estimated that air controller furloughs will cause delays for about a third of all passengers. It added that about 6,700 flights would arrive late at more than a dozen major airports every day.
The Post reported Monday that U.S. airlines sought a federal court order Friday “to block extended furloughs for air traffic controllers,” a move they said will “snarl the nation’s aviation system.”
Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said delays of 30 minutes at major airports on the East Coast were expected to extend across the country during the day Monday.
“Our aviation system should not be used as a pawn in budget debate,” Moak said. “The livelihood of our economy is dependent on air commerce, and the financial strength of our airlines and the people they employ are at risk.”
Clearly President Obama and his allies in Congress will use anyone as pawns to get their way in the Washington budget battle. They relish the site of long lines of passengers at airports on national television. What better way to drive home the point that even the smallest budget cuts are intolerable?
The sequester cuts are a sham. There is no major cut in federal spending, not even the widely reported $85 billion in cuts under sequestration. The real figure is about $44 billion, a fraction of the $3.5 trillion federal budget for fiscal 2013.
The Congressional Budget Office reported in February that discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year as a direct result of sequestration. The Office said additional reductions in spending attributable to the cuts in 2013 funding would occur in later years.
As the debt ceiling vote approaches in the coming weeks, we can look for further moves by the Obama administration to make the public suffer. It will not stop at inconveniencing millions of air travelers. When it comes to federal spending, even the sky is not the limit.
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.