White House in Full Retreat as FAA Sequester Stunt Backfires

Apr 26, 2013 10:36 AM EST

The Obama administration's second installment of sequester scare tactics is working about as well as its first go 'round. Run away:
The White House has endorsed a plan to eliminate FAA spending cuts that have cause air travel delays across the country. The agency has been forced to furlough air traffic controllers as part of the automatic budget cuts that kicked in this spring. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to end the cuts by claiming savings from the draw down of war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans reject his proposal calling it an accounting gimmick.

Of course it's an accounting gimmick. The point is that Democrats are desperate to extricate themselves from this mess, which they orchestrated in a bone-headed attempt to rile public anger against any spending cuts. Good luck with this, guys. Instead of hurting Republicans -- which was the entire point -- this entirely manufactured crisis has infuriated travelers, who inconveniently (a) seem to recall that the sequester was proposed and signed by Obama, and (b) aren't buying the idea that a tiny reduction in the rate of spending increase is enough to justify disruptive furloughs. They're right on both counts, and even some mainstream media outlets have taken the administration to the woodshed. Here's the Chicago Tribune, Obama's hometown paper that endorsed him twice, upbraiding the president. Zero words minced:
Hours before the federal spending sequester began on March 1, when President Barack Obama predicted that "People are going to be hurt," he did not add, Trust me, I'll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week's furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious. The furloughs reflect panic: Having exaggerated their early predictions that the sequester's small reduction in spending growth would seriously affect Americans, many Democrats are hell-bent to pre-empt those Americans from drawing two logical conclusions: If one level of cuts is this painless, then maybe we should make ... more cuts to expenditures. And while we're at it, maybe we should ignore the politicians who told us that if Washington lowered the spending growth curve ... the Earth will fly into the sun....

So, what could the administration do to make a reduction of barely 1 percent of actual federal outlays — less than $45 billion of this year's roughly $3.8 trillion — turn citizens against Republicans who oppose more tax increases? Easy, or so the president's men and women figured: Cue the air controller furloughs! Let's stall some flights on the tarmac! Sure enough, travel delays have followed. We're less certain, though, that this hostage-taking will cut the way the White House expects: The scheme relies on citizens being — how to put this delicately? — stupid enough to think that the Federal Aviation Administration can't find a more flier-friendly way to save $600 million.

The Trib's editors also cite polling showing that the public is less and less worried about the sequester cuts by the day, which likely sparked panic inside the White House: We can't allow spending cuts to go unnoticed. People might start getting the wrong idea. It's time to deliberately inflict totally avoidable pain on the populace -- it's for their own good, really. Other papers are also scolding Democrats for their cynicism, including the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal:
In case there's any doubt about the President's ability to prioritize, at least two GOP Senators, Jerry Moran and Roy Blunt, have written bills to clarify Mr. Obama's authority to make sensible spending decisions. He's not interested, and Senate Democrats have blocked such reforms. Making smart choices about federal sending would spoil the fun of creating flight delays and then blaming Republicans. So this week the FAA has managed to turn the first stages of a 5% budget cut into hours of delays at the nation's airports. The furloughs are landing on air-traffic controllers as much as they are on less vital FAA jobs. Officials at the Department of Transportation, the FAA's parent bureaucracy, say it would be bad for morale to impose heavier furloughs on the employees who don't direct airplanes.

I'll leave you with two charts that put the lie to this entire charade. The first comes via Phil Kerpen:

That's right, the FAA's post-sequester budget is actually higher than the funding it would have received under Obama's own budget. This smacks of Obama's vaccination "cuts" ploy. And finally, check out the graph Larry Kudlow used on his program the other night (around the 1:05 mark). The FAA's operational budget has soared over the last four years, even as flight traffic has declined:


UPDATE - Too perfect: A pre-sequester FAA report demonstrated that air traffic controllers were operating at 22 percent over capacity. Even FAA employees are aware that the pain is political and intentional: "I am disgusted with everything that I see since the sequester took place," another FAA employee wrote. "Whether in HQ or at the field level it is clear that our management has no intention of managing anything. The only effort that I see is geared towards generating fear and demonstrating failure."