The automatic budget cuts in Washington, known as sequestration, have hardly been a secret. Average people, however, tend not to pay attention to such things until they hit them in ways they can’t ignore. That happened this week when the Federal Aviation Administration said the cuts forced it to furlough air traffic controllers, resulting in flight cancellations and long airport lines.
Suddenly, people everywhere are angry and demanding answers. Here is a sampling of opinions nationwide in response:
The Chicago Tribune put the blame squarely on President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress. An editorial Wednesday said the president must not have been happy with opinion polls earlier this month showing people were unconcerned about sequestration.
The editorial said, “So, what could the administration do to make a reduction of barely 1 percent of actual federal outlays — less than $45 billion of this year's roughly $3.8 trillion — turn citizens against Republicans who oppose more tax increases? Easy, or so the president's men and women figured: Cue the air controller furloughs! Let's stall some flights on the tarmac!”
For its part, the White House made it clear Tuesday that all the delays and inconveniences are the fault of Republicans. Spokesman Jay Carney said, “The fact is Congress had an opportunity, but Republicans made a choice. And this is a result of a choice they made to embrace the sequester as — and I'm quoting Republicans — 'a victory for the tea party' and 'a homerun.'"
Speaking of blaming Republicans, the New York Times was squarely on that bandwagon Tuesday with an editorial that said the FAA had no choice because of Republican demands that budget cuts be enacted in exchange for an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling. The real victims of sequestration, the Times said, are the voiceless poor who are losing housing vouchers and Head Start slots.
“The voiceless people who are the most affected by these cuts can’t afford high-priced lobbyists to get them an exception to the sequester…”
The Wall Street Journal, however, isn’t buying those arguments. In an editorial Tuesday, it accused the administration of manipulating things to make them worse. Sequestration forces the FAA to cut 4 percent of its budget, and yet the administration has made sure traffic controllers are cut by 10 percent and the furloughs are distributed equally, rather than applying them strategically to the airports that would least affect air travel.
In addition, the paper says the administration has mismanaged the FAA and refused to update its equipment in recent years. “For more than a decade the FAA has promised to modernize and make the civil aviation system more efficient and reliable, but the only things it has reliably generated are delays or cost overruns or usually both.”
Alexis Simendinger, who covers the White House for Realclearpolitics.org, said the president is feeling pressure from people blaming him for the delays. “Recognizing that long lines at airports heading into the summer travel season might not improve Obama’s job approval numbers — or legislative traction — anytime soon, the White House said the president stands ready to work with Congress on Plan C.”
Of course, there is no Plan C at the moment. Simendinger says a short-term fix may be more important right now.