Gov’t pays for empty flights to rural airports

August 12th, 2011 by NC Tea Party Staff Categories: Featured, Waste No Responses

On some days, the pilots with Great Lakes Airlines fire up a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 at the Ely, Nev., airport and depart for Las Vegas without a single passenger on board. And the federal government pays them to do it.

Federal statistics reviewed by The Associated Press show that in 2010, just 227 passengers flew out of Ely while the airline got $1.8 million in subsidies. The travelers paid $70 to $90 for a one-way ticket. The cost to taxpayers for each ticket: $4,107.

Ely is one of 153 rural communities where airlines get subsidies through the $200 million Essential Air Service program, and one of 13 that critics say should be eliminated from it. Some call the spending a boondoggle, but others see it as a critical financial lifeline to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

Steve Smith, executive director of the Jackson, Tenn., airport authority, also has seen empty or near empty flights take off, since the airlines get paid per flight, not per passenger. The subsidy amounted to $244 for each of the 2,514 people who flew out of Smith’s airport last year, though few if any passengers knew that.

“They fly the empty plane so they can still get the money,” Smith said.

The fight over the subsidies was a key sticking point that led to the recent political standoff in Washington that temporarily shut down the Federal Aviation Administration, putting thousands out of work for nearly two weeks. There were other disputes as well, such as a GOP proposal that would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize.

Republicans got the EAS cuts they were looking for in last week’s agreement – but with a major caveat. Subsidies to Ely, Jackson and 11 other communities are set to end, but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has the authority to continue them if he decides it’s necessary.

Rep. David McKinley, a Republican who came into office with tea party support, sided on the issue with Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a fellow West Virginian who has used his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to support the current funding.

Flights out of Morgantown, W.Va., were among those targeted by other Republicans. A $1 million subsidy amounted to about $52 for each of Morgantown’s more than 10,000 passengers last year.

McKinley describes himself “as a small government, free-market focused owner of a small business,” but said airports that receive subsidies “serve as crucial engines of job creation for many small towns and rural areas.”

Read more, then come back and share your thoughts.

Should the government be subsidizing these airports?

Having the Cake and Eating It Too

March 18th, 2009 by Brook Categories: Waste One Response

Extravagant children’s birthday parties are the latest examples of unchecked irrationality. Accordingly, my wife and I embraced a more prudent approach to our son’s upcoming party: give him a budget and help him plan. Suddenly, the discussion moves from “I want that $50 cake!” to “That $50 cake means I can only invite 2 buddies? Forget the cake-let’s have ice cream and invite 8 more people!”

I cite this example because it illustrates the most fundamental principle in financial management. So simple that even a child can understand: spending should be in accordance with available capital. Yet despite it obvious simplicity, this concept mysteriously alludes government.

Rather than make the tough, disciplined decisions to keep spending in line with its budgets, the government instead finds more ways to tax to compensate for any shortfalls.

This behavior is anathema to fiscal discipline and responsible leadership. As the great George Will recently said (and I paraphrase) “good leadership is oftentimes not choosing what to do but choosing what NOT to do.”

Will was referencing the reckless budget recently advanced by the Obama administraton. Rather than responsibly focusing efforts to address the economic downturn, Obama and his ilk choose instead to tackle all key Democrat initiatives for the last 25 years at once. No money? No bother, let’s embark on providing universal healthcare for all, tackling global warming, and overhauling education anyway! In other words, the largest expansion of government since the 30’s with no money to pay for it. So how should we do it? You guessed it! Let’s tax more! Because what better time to increase the burden of hard-working Americans than during an economic downturn. Nothing motivates the seeking of prosperity than to penalize the accomplishment thereof.

Which brings me to my overall point: the founding fathers never intended for the citizens to be overly taxed to fund an overreaching central government. In fact, this is precisely what they sought to avoid. Throughout the Constitution, it is strikingly clear that avoiding an overly powerful central government was to be sought at all costs. This is clearly denoted in the Tenth Amendment. Why? Because an overly powerful central government invites the tyranny and corruption that jeopardizes the very liberties for which our country was founded.

But these liberties require personal responsibility. They are not earned by transferring our duties to the an inefficient government. Milton Friedman described government spending in this way in 2004:

“Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.”

Furthermore, if we turn over the most personal of our responsibilities as this budget invites: our healthcare, care for our children, our retirement, we in turn relinquish our freedom. Because now who’s in control? Now who’s independent?

The far-reaching entitlement efforts dominating this administration’s most recent budget are inherently specious. Despite the good feeling they trigger in some people, they are irresponsible and violate the core principles of our founding fathers. Because just like that $50 cake, these services are not free and the cost is borne by citizens through this litany of taxes.

While some level of taxation is essential to operate a government, the framers’ intent was explicit that it should be as limited as possible. And energetically increasing taxation to subsidize programs that ultimately make us less free and less safe is in direct conflict with what makes this country strong.
So my advice to those continuing to advance the efforts of unbridled taxation to fund these programs? Let them eat cake. But on their own dime.

-Brook Seaford