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What the FAA fix says about our priorities

What the FAA fix says about our priorities

The flights delays due to The Sequester were of a focus this week on social media, mainstream news, and in Washington where politicians rapidly responded to come up with a fix.

The rapid response has led to a steady drum beat making the point that when it wants to Washington can fix things, so why doesn’t attend to more serious problems.


Beat one: The Rev. Margaret Watson, posting a letter to her representatives in Washington,

Here is my concern: The “Sequester” cuts have cut to the bone here on the Reservation. Our Social Services workers will be working without a direct office supervisor, and will be expected to absorb the work load of their supervisor when she is laid off beginning May 1. They already each have over 150 clients. I have heard one serves more than 260 clients –adding more is going to make a difficult job impossible.

I’ll say it again: Don’t exempt yourselves from the burden the poor must bear every day.

I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.

Beat two: Josh Barro,

our country can afford a few weeks of airport dysfunction. It’s time for elites to be told they can’t have a fix to their problems unless the poor get one, too.

Beat three: Jim Tankersley,

Why does Washington worry more about air delays than the 12 million unemployed? … The rest of the country understands how badly the economy continues to hurt ordinary Americans. Washington apparently doesn’t. The federal government has failed for several years now to pass meaningful legislation to boost growth and job creation, a partisan paralysis that holds while 12 million people look for work but can’t find it – but which vanishes in a matter of days when it comes to fixing delays at the nation’s airports.

Beat four: Mark Thoma,

If wage stagnation and growing inequality somehow caused flight delays and other inconveniences for those who are doing okay — the people with the most political power — maybe we’d put more effort into doing something about it.

Beat five: Matthew Yglesias,

Congress ignores the poor yet again…. Confused as to why the U.S. Senate has snapped into action to prevent sequestration-induced flight delays but has done nothing for low-income families losing their Section 8 vouchers or slots in day care programs? Wondering why FAA flight controllers are more important than teachers on Native American reservations?

it turns out that when Congress cuts domestic discretionary spending “across the board,” it doesn’t really cut it across the board. A program that’s important to prosperous frequent travelers gets spared the ax.

this chart from Larry Bartels’ 2005 paper on “Economic Inequality and Political Representation” tells you what you need to know.

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Gary Paul Gilbert

From the article that Ann notes above:

I'm tired of this whole "personal responsibility" mantra that is taking the place of empathy and compassion.

I guess because I'm a philosophical Christian rather than a theological one, I may have a different slant on this, but I find it particularly reprehensible and hypocritical when people who claim to be religious fail to satisfy one of the basic tenets of their professed belief system but actively denigrate it. [I'd like to be] at the Pearly Gates, when a bunch of these heartless "Christians" approach St. Peter, saying to him, "When did we see you hungry, Lord, and yet told you it was your own damn fault and gave you a kick in the ass?"

Compassion, charity and empathy with the less fortunate are keys to every major organized religion. Note Matthew 25: 31-46 and the word "see:"

"When did we see you, Lord ..." they say, as they bury their heads deeper, and turn away, and refuse to look.

I don't know the Greek or the Aramaic or whatever, but, however it is translated, it comes down to the fact that God gives us ample opportunities to behave with decency, that he puts before us example after example, and that, if you believe all this stuff, he's not going to accept "I didn't see it" as an excuse. [slightly edited -- JMM]

Posted by Murdoch Matthew, Gary's husband (Typepad is uncooperative today)

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John B. Chilton

Point not taken, Chris. Yes, the problem of poverty is hard solve even with our best efforts. But that's a straw man. We're talking about the effect of the sequester on programs that are working. Just to take one example, we have plenty of evidence that Section 8 reduces homelessness. Slashing Section 8 is going to result in greater homelessness.

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Chris H.

Money talks, undoubtedly. However, another part of the problem is the ease of the fix. The FAA controls all airport towers, you change one budget area, done, more or less. But there are over 100, if not hundreds, of departments and agencies and sub-committees dealing with the poor. No line-item is going to work. Half the Federal Departments are all involved in programs for the poor and programs are intermingled in laws, e.g. school lunch programs written into the farm subsidy legislation, so take away the farm subsidies and take away school lunch funding. Congress' way of throwing a Band-Aid on stuff by throwing a bit into this bill or that makes a comprehensive solution almost impossible. And if a problem is complicated almost everyone will look for something easier to do-like control towers. Doesn't make it right by any means, but in a complicated and polarized arena such as government dealmaking, how does one start over?

Chris Harwood

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Liz Zivanov+

And why do they do this? Because they can. I suspect they're pretty confident that nothing will happen to them in the next election. Maybe it's time that the American people take to the streets all over the country. We haven't done that in 40 years. Or can we impeach individual senators and representatives? Obviously letters and phone calls and even individual lobbying doesn't work. We saw that with gun legislation and the Newtown families. Or do we remain a nation of victims. What can/will we do next?

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Ann Fontaine
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