Can a Federal Agency Cut Costs and Protect Customers?

by Burt on April 23, 2013

“Let’s cut some federal agencies by 5%,” Congress and President Obama agreed back in 2010. “That would make our nation more solvent and strong.” That strategy became what is now called the “sequester.”

Excellent idea, but when the “sequestering” of funds began, many Democrats decided they wanted tax hikes, and no cuts in federal spending. Too late. Our nation cut 5% ($600 million) in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and similar amounts from many other federal agencies as well.

What did the FAA (with the president’s blessing) decide to whittle from its budget to save $600 million? Answer: The Air-traffic controllers. Those are the critical people charged with making travel safe. Nothing was cut from the $500 million the FAA spends each year on “consultants,” and nothing from the $325 million it spends on supplies and travel.

Along similar lines, the Wall Street Journal reported today (“Flight Delays as Political Strategy,” April 23, p. A22) that no cut in the $474 million in grants to “make communities more livable and sustainable” has been made from the Department of Transportation (DOT) budget. All of the padding in the FAA and DOT budgets remains in place; instead, air-traffic controllers are being furloughed–in hopes that a crisis will force Congress to raise taxes and give the bureaucrats the tax dollars they covet.

When the airlines, which are private companies, run into debt, they can’t run to the government for a subsidy. They must fire employees or figure out how to cut costs. In the last four years, they have done both.

For example, in recent years, the airlines have redesigned space around major airports to cut flying time–and thus fuel consumption. In addition, airlines are using the auxiliary power units on their planes less and saving fuel that way. Also, according to US Airways, “Most aircraft now taxi to and from gates using only one engine, as long as the pilot determines that it’s safe to do so. Single-engine taxis on the ground can reduce fuel burn by about 40 percent.” (“Fuel Economy,” usairwaysmag.com, April 2013, p. 12)

That’s how people in the private sector save money and jobs. Federal agencies, like the FAA, however, don’t want to fire bureaucrats or cut their perks and travel budgets. Instead, to scare Americans into giving them what they want, bureaucrats cut air-traffic controllers–which has forced delays and increased chances for accidents. Giving in to this strategy would in effect be submitting to blackmail and also set a dangerous precedent. Let’s keep the cuts and make the bureaucrats accountable for all harm.

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