The budget cutbacks – sequester – starting hitting a lot of people last week when the FAA began furloughs of air traffic controllers.
Hundreds of flights were delayed, planes left sitting on the ground, flights cancelled, grumpy passengers.
It was amazing.
Then Congress voted to reverse the automatic cuts that were causing it.
The Internet exploded, with people saying it was appalling for Congress to undo those sequester cuts while leaving in place cuts to such programs as Head Start and Meals on Wheels that affect tens of thousands of poor people.
The obvious conclusion some say is: Congress cares much more about the problems of rich air travelers (who are regular voters) and will act quickly to solve them.
This is entirely valid and correct — but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The group that Congress is helping the most by lifting the FAA sequester isn’t business flyers.
No, they’re helping themselves.
There is no more pampered class of air traveler than members of Congress.
At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, they have their own special parking spaces — right up close to the terminal.
And they’re free.
How much money is that worth?
It costs the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority $738,760 in lost revenue.
Being a member of Congress also means never having to rush to catch a flight.
The airlines allow lawmakers the special privilege of simultaneously booking themselves on multiple flights, so that if they are late or their flight is canceled, they’re guaranteed a spot on the next one.
And the schedule of work in Congress means they fly in to Washington on Tuesday and fly home on Thursday.
It’s a great job, isn’t it?
All these perks are a big deal because most congress-folks fly a lot, and many of them fly first class.
They don’t just jet home to their districts to see the voter who put them in office.
Sometimes, they’re jetting around the world at taxpayer expense.
Maybe to a golf junket in Scotland, or for a dip in the Sea of Galilee.
All in the name of research, of course.
Here’s the point – Congress’s decision to lift the FAA sequester was even more self-serving than you probably imagined.
After casting their votes on Friday, most members raced to the airport and went home.
With no delay and free parking.