FAA Stalemate Plan: Make Congress Travel by Bus

UPDATE 3:45pm EDT: It looks like this is over. The solution appears to be more or less a "clean" extension of FAA funding, allowing the anti-union and small-airport funding issues to be fought out later on. Gee, what was the rush? Maybe the threat of the bus rides? More about this event and its meaning later.
That's the recurring theme in responses from many readers about the latest dysfunctional-government outrage, the needless furloughing of thousands of FAA workers and contractors. Reminder: the main budgetary disagreement is over what the GOP considers "wasteful" spending of about $16 million per year. The ongoing shutdown, which prevents the FAA from collecting airline taxes, is costing the Treasury more than $20 million per day. From a reader in New Mexico:

>>Not that it makes it any more rational, but the 70,000 number LaHood cites is wrong, or at least not precise.
http://factcheck.org/2011/07/lahood-pads-job-losses/ [JF note: this FactCheck item suggests that the number of construction workers immediately laid off is closer to 24,000. The other ~46,000 people who have lost their incomes include service workers, suppliers, local businesses, etc. FWIW.]
As to the airport inspectors working without pay and footing their own bills. I think they should stay home and let the airports close. This is one more example of Republican extortionists succeeding because someone else (who is behaving like an adult) bears the consequences of the terrorists actions. When the airports close, you can bet that Congress will come out of recess to fix it, assuming they can find flights back to Washington.<<

From one in Boston:

>>I think it's the wrong approach to ask the unpaid FAA inspectors to work as volunteers. 

As you point out, they perform an important role that is very appropriately a government function.  One of the problems of the current climate is that there is all this shouting about cutting the government and letting it shut down, but nobody understands what that would mean in real life. 

Let the inspectors stop working, have airports shut down because safety can't be assured, and blame the ensuing chaos squarely on John Mica and his allies. 

Perhaps then people will begin to realize that government plays a vital role in so many things we don't see every day, and that we shouldn't be cavalier about taking a chain-saw to the government budget.<<

Another reader:

>>I disagree strongly with the notion that FAA inspectors working for free is a good thing. The public should be made to feel the pain produced by the people they elected to congress. If that means airports have to be shut down because their safety cannot be assured, then so be it. That would focus the attention of the zealots.<<

Chris Weigant at his site (sent by a reader), with a proposed (fantasized?) new "this is bullshit" speech by Obama:

>>This is unacceptable. This is beyond dysfunctional. This is, in fact, an outrage. So I'm giving Congress a grace period of precisely two days, to get their butts back to Washington to fix this problem immediately. If I don't have a bill on my desk by the end of this Friday, I will instruct my Attorney General to immediately put every member of Congress on the "no-fly" list. To be blunt, if they can't find the time to fund the F.A.A. and prefer to take weeks off on vacation instead, then they will not be allowed to use the F.A.A.'s services in the meantime. Period.

I am sick of the partisan bickering in Washington, and I believe most Americans are just as disgusted by what Congress normally does as well -- or, more to the point, what they do not do. I blame all of them, which is why every single one of them will be on the "no-fly" list starting this Saturday morning. They can just take the bus to get to their corporate-sponsored junkets in the sunshine -- but they will not fly to get there. As every teenager in the country eventually discovers, when you don't do your homework, then you get grounded. Literally "grounded," in this case.

Members of Congress will just have to figure out another way of returning to Washington after this Saturday, because the airports will be closed to them. Folks in Congress who live out West should plan enough travel time to cross the country on the ground. Hawaiian legislators should look into boat schedules. My only regret in taking this action is that some members of Congress live close enough to Washington for this not to affect them -- because, ideally, I'd like to punish all of them.<<

This episode is such a flagrant illustration of "let them eat cake"-ism on the part of legislators -- tens of thousands of families suddenly with no paychecks because of our pouting! hundreds of millions lost to the Treasury! but we don't care! -- and of deep dysfunction in our system, that perhaps it will have some turning-point effect. On the other hand, probably not. But at a bare minimum, maybe these jerk Congressmen will find a way to solve it, now, without leaving wholly blameless families stranded -- and expecting inspectors to work for free? I generally take the long, calm view, but Grrrrrrrr.
Update, from a reader who runs a small business, noting the gap between the $16 million disagreement and the hundreds of millions of lost revenue:

>>What business in the world bases its practices on ideology? Not even Fox News does that!

Any entity that would pass up the chance to make almost 200% a day on an annual investment, is simply not thinking like a business - and this puts the lie to this canard. And we haven't even talked about the income taxes paid by the people out of work. If it's really 75,000 taxpayers, it only takes $213 of income tax per worker to cover the $16million.

So obviously, it's not about the money, or 'running the government like a business.' It's about something else.<<

And from another satisfied citizen:

>>I thought the debt-ceiling fiasco was bad but this latest event defies belief. The thousands of people out of work are bad enough, but how can these members of Congress possibly explain the hundreds of millions (potentially billions before this is over) of dollars in lost tax revenue? It goes against the very principle, saving the government money, that they claim to be standing up for. Truly unbelievable. Just thinking about it make me sick to my stomach.<<
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In