While the battle over the debt ceiling has ended (for now), there was still a rather important matter that was left unresolved, that of the FAA.
The FAA was in sort of a financial limbo and could not even collect federal taxes on airline tickets (some airlines increased their prices by an amount equal to these taxes, thus negating consumer savings). The revenue loss was been estimated at around $30 million per day. About 4,000 aviation workers were put on furlough and there were significant layoffs in the construction industry. Tallahassee, where I live, has had to suspend new work on the airport-thus damaging the local economy.
This situation was directly the result of our defective congress. Rather than actually coming to an agreement on the matter, congress has passed 20 short term funding extensions for the FAA. They seem to have worked out a deal to get the FAA going again.
One reason for the lack of a resolution is the conflict over the subsidies to rural airports located in states that have Democratic senators. While this is partially a battle over pork distribution, there is a significant point of concern here, namely that there are airports that receive federal funding yet do not seem to really have a justification for their existence (other than getting money from the federal funding). Since I would prefer to not have my tax dollars wasted, I would prefer that any unnecessary airports be removed from the federal gravy train.
Of course, the Democrats are not the only cause of trouble. The Republicans are worried about airline employees unionizing and want to keep the rules governing this the same rather than allowing them to be changed to make unionizing easier. Unions are seen as a significant evil by many of the current crop of Republicans. The rhetoric is, of course, that unions are bad for the economy. However, it is tempting to suspect that their opposition is based on the (correct) belief that unions make it harder for companies to do things to workers (like paying them less) that enable them to get more profits.
While I am aware that unions can be corrupt and problematic, I am generally for unions. My stock argument is one of fairness: if corporations can organize so as to look out for the interests of “capital”, then workers should be allowed to organized so as to look out for their own interests.
Of course, some folks might be happy that the FAA was not collecting taxes (though many airlines have stepped in to raise ticket prices to “offset” that). After all, some folks regard taxes and government as great evils. However, that revenue is rather important for funding much of the airport stuff that makes air travel safe and even possible.
My biggest worry is not so much the FAA but rather the fact that our government is so defective that we have had a major federal agency being needlessly left in limbo. We need people who can step up and get things done rather than a congress that seems content with piling up debt and with putting things off to the last minute (and beyond). While I disagree with the Tea Party folks on some matters, I do agree with their view that government needs some serious fixing. Ironically, of course, some of the folks the Tea Party helped get into office have proven to be part of the problem rather than the solution.