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Air travel: That's one silly victory over sequestration

Air Transportation IndustryBudget Control Act of 2011Federal Aviation AdministrationGeorge W. BushBarack ObamaU.S. CongressSteny Hoyer

So that’s how you get this Congress to spend money: You cramp their vacation plans.

The House on Friday passed legislation that will end the furloughing of air traffic controllers. And what got these famously contentious representatives off their duffs? Here’s a hint from my colleague Lisa Mascaro’s story:

Final passage of the quickly arranged stopgap measure came as lawmakers were boarding their own flights out of Washington for a weeklong recess.

Yes indeed: Step right this way to board, congressman, for another on-time flight to get you home. Wouldn’t want to keep you from the wife and kids, and the political fundraising.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. Congress has been hearing it from airlines and consumers for days about the delays caused when the FAA, responding to the “sequester” -- you know, the inane across-the-board budget cuts that our fearless leaders were OK with when they started in March -- cut back on air traffic controllers.

All in all, it made for a perfect political storm, one that fit right in with this political crop’s recipe for management: Lurch from crisis to crisis, lurch to a half-baked solution, then point fingers.

For example, here’s Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), who introducing the bill: “The administration has played shameful politics with sequestration at the expense of hardworking American families. We’re taking this step because of the gross mismanagement.”

Good one, Tom; you should pay your speechwriter a little something extra his week. He/she got all the key terms in there: “shameful politics,” “hardworking American families” and “gross mismanagement.” Doesn’t mean anything, of course, but it sure sounds good on TV.

Not to be outdone, we have Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who correctly pointed out that the bill applied only to the FAA, not programs such as Head Start, Meals on Wheels and others that also have run afoul of the sequester: “Nothing in here for them. We ought to help everyone else as well.”

Yes, Steny, we should. If only money grew on trees.

So what can we do? Well, we could round up the usual suspects: Blame President Obama. Blame John Boehner. Blame George W. Bush. On second thought, don’t blame Dubya: Why spoil the opening of his new presidential library?

The point is, giving money to those who complain the most or the loudest is one dumb idea. We already have too much money in politics, too many folks buying influence. And now we’re going to micromanage the budget process that way?

What’s next: Some billionaire like Elon Musk putting up money to speed up construction of the 405 Freeway? Huh? You’re kidding me!

No, it’s not a bad thing that the control towers at our airports are back at full strength.

But it’s a silly way to run a country.

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