Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sequester slams air-traffic control system

Sequester slams air-traffic control system, When the White House and Congress went round-and-round before the “sequester” went into effect March 1, Democrats and Republicans fought like cats-and-dogs at the expense of the U.S. economy. Fiscal conservatives like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Vir.) knew full well that slated budget cuts wouldn’t reduce government debt or take a dent out of U.S. budget deficits. Placing the nation’s air-traffic system in jeopardy by laying off thousands of controllers damages the U.S. economy. If there’s anything that will push Wall Street over the falls it’s damage to the air-traffic system, causing delays and cancellations at the nation’s airports. “Expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather-related issues,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

All the political hype about how the “sequester” would somehow help the economy couldn’t be more fraudulent. Few things can damage the economy more than laying off thousands of federal workers and paralyzing the nation’s air-traffic control system. Whatever happens with Apple Inc. stock at the end of the trading day will pale in comparison to the uncertainty of endless flight delays. Finger-pointing in both directions won’t do anything other than make things worse. When S&P downgraded U.S. credit Aug. 11, 2011, they cited Washington gridlock as the main reason. Washington’s gridlock has literally blocked the nation’s air-traffic system from moving passengers on-time across the system. Pointing more fingers, White House spokesman Jay Carney placed the blame squarely at the feet of Republicans for refusing to hike more taxes on the rich.

White House officials know that the public’s patience grows thinner with more finger-pointing. Air-passengers don’t have a dog in the fight other than getting to their destinations on time. All the talk of emergency injunctions fall on deaf ears in federal courts. White House and Capitol Hill officials must step up to the plate and fix the problem. Whatever the differences between Democrats and Republicans they’re not going to be bridged anytime soon. Fixing the air-traffic system can happen quickly with emergency funding to reinstate furloughed air-traffic controllers. Canceling, delaying and rescheduling flights is no joke. Today’s air-traffic problems only complicate Wall Street’s problems, including the expected bad news at Apple Inc. President Barack Obama needs to call House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) into emergency session.

Time for playing the blame-game is long-over. Whoever’s at fault in failing to reach a deal on he sequester isn’t relevant. For the sake of an economy teetering on a double-dip, it’s time to find the money for air-traffic controllers. “As bad as the delays have been, they could be in worse if the FAA were not taking extraordinary steps to cover for the controllers forced off the job,” the National Traffic Controllers Assn. said in a statement. Paying over-time to keep the system working completely defeats the attempts at savings under the sequester. Mandated to slash $637 million off its yearly budget, the FAA needs around $200 million to stop the furloughs. “It’s simple math—furloughing controllers earning base while paying others base pay plus and additional 50 percent will not result in savings,” showing the kind of penny-wise-and-pound-foolish logic of messing the nation’s air-traffic system.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, asked the White House how much it would take to keep air-traffic controllers back on the job. “Look, the Obama administration knew about the sequester for months,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), playing more politics. Both sides knew about the consequences to the air-traffic system and did nothing. While McConnell thinks the FAA has enough operation capital to continue paying air-traffic controllers, there’s plenty of emergency cash to pay for rebels in Syria. White House and Congressional officials need to stop playing games and find the needed money to keep planes flying on time. Squeezed in Washington’s partisan food-fight, air-traffic controllers must be above the fray.

If the White House and Congress can’t find a piddly $200 million to keep the nation air-traffic system intact, then Wall Street will react harshly. White House officials denied that the nation’s air-traffic system is being held hostage in Washington’s budget wars. President of the Air Line Pilots’ Administration Lee Moak see things differently. Urging emergency White House and Congressional action, Moak wants the air-traffic system funding reinstated. Whatever the long-term fix to the U.S. budget, it’s not up to FAA to find the answer. Regardless of how the budget turns out, the air-traffic system must be made whole. More delays, cancellations and rescheduling only damages the U.S. economy, preventing the business cycle from moving forward. Setting distant deadlines in federal court won’t solve the immediate problem of finding a measly $200 million to reverse the furloughs.

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