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The Shutdown’s Real Lesson: Government Has Taken Hostage Too Much of the Economy

January 10, 2019 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

We are in the third week of the federal government’s
partial shutdown. The shutdown is affecting the lives of many
federal workers and may soon start disrupting the broader economy.
Because the government exerts control over major industries, when
the politicians butt heads, it damages activities such as aviation,
tourism and recreation.

The problem with the shutdown is not that President Trump is holding the government
“hostage,” as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
said
, but that the government has taken hostage of too much of
the U.S. economy.

Consider security screening at the nation’s 450 commercial
airports. The government took over that function in 2001 when it
created the Transportation Security Administration. Over the years,
the TSA has generally done a poor job, caused
congestion and wasted a lot of money.

Political battles would
not impact important activities if they were separated from the
federal government.

And now, because the TSA is the only screening organization we
have, the shutdown may affect the entire nation’s air travel.
A spokesman for the TSA screener’s union said
Tuesday:
“Some of [my members] have already quit and many
are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this
shutdown … The loss of officers, while we’re already
shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American
travelers since we don’t have enough trainees in the
pipeline.”

He’s probably exaggerating the risk, but political battles
would not impact such important activities if they were separated
from the federal government. Many advanced nations, including Britain and
France, have privatized their screening or moved it to the control
of local airports
. If we followed suit, there would not be just
one “pipeline” for trainees because airports could
contract services from numerous companies.

It is a similar situation with our government-run
air-traffic-control system. The spokesman for the federal controller’s union
said the negative “ripple effect” of the federal
shutdown
may last months or years, while the head of the Airline Pilots Association said
“the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening
the safe operations”
of the nation’s airspace.

During the 2013 budget sequester battle, controllers were
furloughed and thousands of flights were delayed before the
politicians cobbled together a budget deal.

All of this is unnecessary. Dozens of nations have separated
their ATC from their government budgets. Canada privatized its ATC system in 1996 as a
self-funded nonprofit corporation. That structure has created
financial stability, improved management, and generated innovation.
The U.S. controller’s union has been so frustrated with
federal budget instability and the slow pace of innovation under
the current structure that <a target=_blank href="https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/atc" …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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