Sunday, August 7, 2011

Airheads: An FAA Agreement, Sort Of

U.S. President Obama signed on Friday a deal to end a two-week partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration caused by lack of funding. Some 4,000 furloughed FAA workers can begin returning to work Monday. Another 70,000 laid off construction workers, who were working on airport expansions and upgrades before the money ran out, can filter back to their jobs.

So, all is well, right?

Well, no. This latest temporary extension of funding for the crucial agency - the 21st of its kind - lasts only till mid-September, after Congress returns to Washington, D.C. Then the whole comic opera can begin again.

There is still no resolution of the labor dispute over airline union-certification elections - one cause of the partial shutdown. There is no long-term settlement of the subsidies given to small-market communities, which media reports say run $163 million USD a year. Uncle Sam has lost two and a half times that amount - about $400
million - in lost air fare tax revenue when the taxes could not be collected during the partial shutdown. Some savings.

Now, the Internal Revenue Service says there will be no IRS refunds to consumers who paid higher fares when airlines decided to raise fares during the tax holiday. To be fair, loss-making airlines need to make money. Still, once again, the long-suffering little guy has been left at the gate.

When this dysfunctional Congress, rent by partisan divides - some calculated and carried out with extreme recklessness by Republican freshmen in the House of Representatives - gets back to work in September, the political gridlock will leave the FAA scuffle looking like a day at the beach. It would be nice to think it gets better, but it's hard to see how.

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