This week has apparently been dubbed “infrastructure week” by the White House (which is far inferior to National Donut Day, by the way), with a series of initiatives on the way which are expected to include spending packages covering roads, waterways and perhaps even the power grid. Depending how this is rolled out and, more to the point, how it gets paid for, that may prove productive. There’s certainly work to be done in those areas assuming someone can figure out how to do it without blowing massive holes in the budget similar to President Obama’s initial infrastructure slush fund plan. Unfortunately it’s not all roads and bridges. The Washington Post (along with numerous other outlets) is reporting that President Trump will be pushing to restructure the nation’s air traffic controller system under the Federal Aviation Administration.
I say “unfortunately” because this is no doubt the same dubious “privitization” plan which Congressman Bill Shuster has been pushing for two years now. And it’s not good news at all.
President Trump will seek to put a spotlight on his vows to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system and spur $1 trillion in new investment in roads, waterways and other infrastructure with a weeklong series of events starting Monday at the White House…
The president has invited executives from major airlines to join him as he kicks off the week with one of his more controversial plans: spinning off the air traffic control functions of the Federal Aviation Administration to a nonprofit corporation.
It’s an idea that’s been tried many times before dating back to the Clinton administration and most recently last year in legislation championed by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. His bill never made it to the Senate, where several key GOP members resisted the idea of transferring government assets to a corporation.
We’ve covered this subject here since it first started cooking a couple of years back. As regular readers likely know, I’m all in favor of trimming down the federal behemoth through privatization where it makes sense and can be done efficiently while saving money for taxpayers. And even in a critical safety area such as the FAA and the air traffic controllers it could probably work. But this plan doesn’t really do that. In fact, as I recently argued, the current version of it is pretty much the opposite of draining the swamp. This plan would hand control of the system over largely to the unions and act as a gift to the few remaining major airlines who already don’t have any real competition or incentive to keep prices down.
I suppose we shouldn’t be too shocked to see this crop up on Trump’s agenda. After all, he’s given us more than a few signals since last year. In March we learned that the President’s budget had space carved out for this FAA scheme, so even if Congress didn’t put it into their own budget plan the President was obviously looking at it. Even before that, Shuster had been telling some of his colleagues that he had the President’s ear as early as in January.
But this isn’t the sort of thing that can be done by executive fiat. In order to push through this major giveaway to the unions, President Trump will need Congress, and that may prove a tough hill to climb. In February of 2016 Shuster was trying to ram the plan out of committee and it landed with a thud, being pushed back on the shelf with little hope for seeing the light of day again. It simply wasn’t selling, for which many of us were grateful.
Will the new, vocals support of the President start bringing some GOP votes his way and breath fresh life into the scheme? I for one certainly hope not. There’s no doubt room for plenty of improvement at the FAA and with the air traffic control system, but it needs to be a real privatization plan with solid oversight, not some union scheme to simply sweep the problem under the rug and wind up costing us more money in the long run.