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The recent FAA bill

 

Since we are past the pressing issues of the last couple of weeks, and President Obama is on vacation giving the rest of us a needed break, I decided to re-examine a subject that garnered a lot of attention after the debt ceiling disaster.

The failure of the Senate to pass an FAA extension bill was an oversight and a disaster in itself.

In the last weeks of July 2011 with Congress going on vacation a new crisis arose. The issue- the FAA extension bill was not passed. What to do, what to do? President Obama went on the offensive and wasted little time in blaming Republicans for going on break before passing the FAA extension bill.

President Obama charged to the stage shouting he was going to make everyone come back from recess and pass this important bill. Everyone needed to put aside politics, come together, and yada yada yada!

Fact was the House did their job and sent the 21st FAA extension to the Senate on July 20th. Harry Reid and President Obama knew full well that the funding would run out on July 23rd and knew that for a very long time.

The House version of the FAA extension was sent over with cuts amounting to $16 million in a $200 million part of a $15 billion operation. The holdup was Senator Rockefeller, a Democrat.

Adding fuel to the fire, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer went to the media and tossed out over-inflated employee numbers affected by the cuts and the shutdown. The shutdown created because the DEMOCRATES in the SENATE couldn’t pass the bill. But turning the focus from who’s at fault to those affected and how they are all going to suffer, is an old trick.

First we heard that 4,000 lost their jobs because of the requested cuts and that it eventually affected some 70,000 construction jobs. Wow, that sounds bad! Fact is “There were 4,000 furloughed government employees, but the actual number of FAA personnel was not known.”

In reality the cuts would eliminate a small number of jobs out of a workforce of 47,000 and save $16 million annually. They would affect a small number, (13) rural airports which are only open because the government subsidizes the cost of tickets.

Those subsidies range from $9.21 to as much as $3500 per ticket. Cool, I can fly to the middle of nowhere and some nice taxpayer will subsidize my ticket. Hey wait, I’m the taxpayer!

Those 13 subsidized rural airports do not employ 4,000 people.

What was the rush? Well it seems the geniuses in Washington neglected an important fact (What a surprise). You see every time you fly the ticket is taxed (another surprise). The tax collected funds part of the FAA (some 47,000 employees) and the AIP (Airport Improvement Project).

The clowns in the Administration failed to realize the government can only collect the ticket taxes if the FAA is operating. If there is no FAA on duty, then by law the government cannot collect the taxes, which amount to about $200 million per week, Crisis born, and once again, conceived by incompetence.

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell had agreed to pass the legislation forwarded from the house with the included cuts. While agreeing in public, Harry Reid underhandedly only agreed to the cuts because he knew president Obama had the executive authority to override the cuts now that the debt ceiling was raised and there was funding available.

So that’s exactly what happened. The House recommended $16 million in cuts, the Senate agreed, and the President eliminated the cuts with the stroke of a pen. I think this president is taking far too many liberties!

The President’s authority to extend the funding only lasts until the end of September, when the issue will have to be addressed once again. That’s real efficient government isn’t it? Just put a patch on the problem and have to deal with it again in a couple of months.

Is it innocent inefficiency, or a ‘crisis’ card kept in the back pocket of Obama to be played at the right time in September? I suspect both, but I’m leery of the second possibility.

Anyway, while all of this was going on the AIP funding was at stake. So far the AIP, through the FAA has allocated to spend $1,301,183,208. More on that in a moment.

Why was Obama Johnny on the spot over $16 million in cuts? He couldn’t care less about $16 million in cuts or 13 rural airports, so what was it? Enter the UNION.

You see the Union is hoping to fully unionize the FAA by getting card check passed. What is card check you ask?

Currently if a group of employees at a company want to unionize there is a straight forward yes or no vote with those abstaining counted as no votes. What card check would do is force a yes or no vote with the abstaining votes not being counted at all.

That way the Union thugs only need to rally a few potential members to vote yes, intimidate others not to vote at all. In management this is referred to as the tail wagging the dog.  And we cannot allow this. The unionized FAA employees tried to wreak havoc when Reagan was President and he sent them packing. We cannot, we must not allow the union a foothold in the FAA again.

Any workforce elimination would jeopardize their chances. That’s why Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s legislative director had to put his 2 cents in. You know the same Bill Samuel that is on a “Campaign to End Corporate Dominance of Our Democracy.” Union dominance of all government employment is his goal.

Hey Bill, they are not union yet, so butt out! We all know you don’t care if the government has to waste $16 million a year or $1 billion a year as long as you get yours, right?

Some of those 4,000 furloughed employees were UNION members. Possibly a few hundred of them. The union’s concern for all of the furloughed employees was nonexistent and is clearly reflected in some of the local UNION leader’s comments. 

“To have 14 of approximately 360 employees in our Local furloughed for ideological differences is unconscionable. We urge Congress to ensure these employees are made whole by receiving back pay and benefits for time lost,” Challender said.

Fourteen employees out of 360? Back pay and benefits? Really? And how many of these union employees actually ‘work’ at an airport?

What about those 70,000 construction workers that were idled? Well let’s see. There are some 200 construction projects listed. Some of those projects list cost amounts of $25,000 for installing perimeter fencing to $10 million for major construction projects.

Let’s just use raw data and do some math; 70,000 construction workers doing 200 projects equals 350 construction workers per job. The facts indicate that that number was a huge stretch when you consider some of the projects listed. Some were simply installing a perimeter fence. On what airport project would it take 350 construction workers to install a fence?

Many of the projects listed are paving projects for around $125,000 each. The employees required to do that kind of paving job would amount to about 30.

By contrast there are an estimated 1,000 workers at Ground Zero. I think it would be safe to say that all of the projects under way under the AIP might reach 15,000. 15,000 is a large number to be sure, but a far cry from 70,000.

Now back to the AIP. They have a total fund of $3.5 billion. Secretary Babbit says “they have only spent a small portion of the grant money.”  But according to the government records they have already spent $1,301,183,208. One third does not qualify as a small amount.

There are 909 listings for some 200 construction projects. A number of the grant entries are for equipment purchases, land purchases, and the like.

But I did manage to find some interesting expenditures in the list.

There are 28 entries for Environmental and Wildlife studies totaling $4,619,875.

 AIP stands for Airport Improvement Project. These are existing airports, not new ones. Environmental and wildlife studies should have already been completed. But you know those who seem to get on the governments dime NEVER SEEM TO GET OFF.

Then there are 46 entries labeled Update Airport Master Plan Study totaling $13,026,820.

That’s a whole lot of Updating to plans. In some of the listings, the plan updates cost more of the updates themselves.

There are several other entries where Update Airport Master Plan Study has been included with other expenditures. The exact amounts were not listed so I did not include them in my totals.

15 mysterious entries totaling $54,908,144 with labels like;

Update Miscellaneous Study

Conduct State System Plan Study

Non primary development projects in state block grant program

That is a whole lot of pork. $55 million for miscellaneous listings needs a lot more explaining.

Chuck Schumer came out of hiding because 38 of these projects are in NY totaling $66,436,854.

When the Democrats are protecting their pork and president Obama is protecting his union interests things usually get nasty.

Maybe it’s time to have an audit of some of these AIP projects and the people involved in them. And maybe it should be done before they spend the other $2 billion.

Some may think this is old news. Maybe so.  Maybe not. Maybe it’s relevant for a couple of reasons;

Maybe the next time President Obama starts screaming crisis, you can review the facts surrounding the FAA bill and decide for yourselves if it is in fact a crisis, or is it just another manufactured emergency.

Maybe we should take note of the incompetence displayed when the Administration failed to see the importance of the FAA bill and the tax revenues it represented.

Maybe this article may serve as an illustration of how the Unions are trying to continually fill every government job they can, making it all but impossible to get rid of those employees no matter how meaningless their jobs are or how poor their performance is. It’s just another case of the tail wagging the dog.

Or maybe this article is a glimpse into what Obama plans to reveal in his “Great Economic Salvation Plan” (or whatever the media calls it) in September. The same month the FAA extension is up for renewal.

Maybe this article will make you wonder how far Obama will push the envelope of Executive Authority by side-stepping Congress.

Maybe the photo at the top of the article is an accurate depiction of who’s flying the plane.

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