I was dumbfounded when I first read that between July 23 and August 7 American airlines would not be collecting federal ticket taxes because our straightjacketed Congress failed to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
I was outraged when I read that American airlines raised ticket prices by the amount of the tax (exceptions: Alaska, Hawaiian, Spirit) but did not set it aside to return to the federal government. No. They put it in their pockets. American capitalization at its best.
And then I read The Economist (dead trees version) Tuesday and learned that the U.S. treasury lost about $360 million because Republican leadership balked at a $16.5 million reduction in "federal subsidies for passengers at a dozen or so remote rural airports."
Let me type that again:
GOP leadership in the House balked at a $16.5 million reduction in subsidies to rural airports .... and believed in this SO strongly that they were willing to forgo more than 20 times that amount.
And the pièce de résistance:
The "big" villain of the piece: John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He claimed he was saving the nation $16 million in wasteful spending in the Essential Air Service program, but ended up costing the nation all that tax revenue. Mica also inadvertently reminded observers that he is the pork-barrel power behind SunRail, a billion-dollar rail boondoggle that only benefits his Florida House district.
If this isn't the definition of irrational -- insane -- behavior, I don't know what it is.
Oh. Wait. There's more.
This is a temporary measure -- like everything this Congress passes. We'll get to revisit it next month, as the FAA still awaits re-authorization. Do ya think we could convince Florida citizens to toss Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, out on his ear? Doubtful; he was first elected in 1992.