Michael Perelman reports with NPR’s help about how the Republicans shut down the FAA in mid-July for nearly 4 weeks as a favor to Delta Airlines. Basically, in July the law authorizing the FAA, the agency that supervises airport and airline safety,including flight controllers, expired. Normally this would be a routine renewal effort. Even in somewhat testy times with a split Congress, there would normally be an agreement on a stop-gap measure. Not this year and not with this House.
The FAA was shut down because of a partisan dispute. The basic issue was supposed to be the Republican demand that the agency save $16 million by ceasing to subsidize 13 airports with relatively little demand. Yes, the airports were in Democratic strongholds.
NPR’s Brian Naylor reported that the airports were a bargaining chip. The real issue was the threat that union power posed for Delta. The National Mediation Board rejected a practice that counted required a union to win more than half the eligible votes rather than half of the votes cast.
Delta, the only non-union airline, got the Republican bill to include language overturning the National Mediation Board decision. Since the House leadership refused to budge, the FAA shut down, leaving the government unable to collect $30 million per day in taxes. Patriotically, most of the airlines continued to collect the tax in the form of higher fares. However, these “job creators” kept the money so that they could help the economy. Besides, the government could make up the lost taxes with still more tax cuts.
This happened two weeks before the supposed debt-ceiling deadline. At the time, the Republicans were claiming that the deficit and government spending were out of control, threatened the nation, and had to be reduced. So what did they do? Rather than compromise, they decided to stop the government from collecting $30 million in ticket taxes per day! In addition they put 4,000 government workers out of a job! What was worth costing the government so much money and making the deficit so much worse? They wanted to save $16 million per year by closing 13 airports in Democratic districts. Oh, and they also wanted to change the rules on unionization to protect big-donor Delta Airlines. Best government money can buy.