It is with bemusement and not a little anger that we viewed the antics in the halls of Congress this week. Now that some of the effects of the “sequester” are being felt, especially with airline flight delays and cancellations due to the furlough of air traffic controllers, our senators and representatives have their underwear in a twist.
It is especially galling to hear conservatives, including Pennsylvania’s own Sen. Pat Toomey – the ones who insisted that the only way to rise out of the Great Recession was to cut, cut, cut spending – complaining about government spending cuts.
In order to comply with the mandatory 10-percent reduction, the Federal Aviation Administration must furlough all of its 47,000 employees, including its 15,000 controllers. Each employee is losing one day of work every other week. As a result, the number of flight delays at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, for example, increased to 20 percent Monday from 2 percent the previous Monday.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed the administration’s “poor planning” and “political motives” have left travelers “stuck on tarmacs.” Toomey called the cutbacks “utterly unnecessary.” They claim the FAA could make the cuts in other spending rather than furloughing their employees.
We guess that neither of the senators has much experience at running a business. Otherwise, they would know that the only way to make such a drastic, unbudgeted reduction in spending is to reduce payroll. Anyone who has ever run a business and has survived the shifting winds of the economy knows this.
There are very few people on Capitol Hill or in the White House who are blameless for this mess. The sequester, which was President Obama’s idea, was meant to be so frighteningly inflexible that there would be no way that it would ever be allowed to take effect. Somehow, Washington would come up with a way to reduce spending and raise revenue before the deadline. Pretty much everyone agreed to it. And, of course, nothing was done. So here we are.
Congress could end the sequester and put furloughed controllers back in their towers, at any time, by coming to an agreement to do so. It’s obvious, though, that its members are more interested in pointing fingers and political gamesmanship.
If you’re planning on flying anywhere this year, plan on arriving late.