Lurking in President Trump’s newly-unveiled budget proposal is a big problem for conservatives. No, it’s not that it fails to touch entitlement spending, which is the real driver of the debt and deficit. It’s not that it focuses on gimmicky (if otherwise unobjectionable) things like cutting funding for Big Bird on the erroneous pretext that this will somehow balance the federal budget.
The big problem is the budget’s advocacy for a proposed “privatization” of air traffic control that is a crony capitalist, big labor giveaway and tax-hiking scheme of the very worst sort that also happens to be opposed by the Department of Defense.
Here’s the background: For years now, House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster, who inherited his daddy’s seat in Congress, has been pushing to “spin off” air traffic control to a private corporation.
Sounds fine, right? Well, except for the fact that the corporation would be dominated by big airline and union interests, who have zero interest in constraining air traffic control costs (like air traffic controllers’ salaries or benefit packages), and a lot of interest in raising taxes and fees, especially on lesser players in the aviation industry—something that Shuster’s board would absolutely be able to do because setting it up explicitly involves Congress delegating away its taxing authority.
In short, this plan will allow big airlines to tax consumers up the wazoo, and big labor to reap the rewards, which is why the air traffic controllers union supports it—oh, and the Pentagon doesn’t like it because it raises concerns about their ability to use airspace the way they need to, which matters in an environment where planes have been weaponized by terrorists and used to attack the homeland.
In addition to DoD, the scheme is opposed by Grover Norquist because of its tax component, and has been heavily, heavily criticized for its insufficient conservative underpinnings by the Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute and Center for Individual Freedom.
So why is Shuster pushing it? And why has Trump apparently bought into it?
Taking the first question first, there’s a really simple and frankly gross answer: Shuster is dating one of the airlines’ chief in-house lobbyists. Not a joke.
Shelley Rubino is the Vice President for Global Government Affairs for Airlines for America, the trade association that does Big Airline’s bidding in Washington, DC. And she and Shuster are literally involved in a romantic relationship.
Mind you, both profess that she does not lobby Shuster (though she presumably does other things to/with him).
And yes, it is all a big political problem that makes Shuster basically the perfect poster boy if Nancy Pelosi wants to run a 2018 campaign focused on “draining the swamp,” like she did in 2006.
The Shuster-Rubino relationship, and its apparent responsibility for Shuster doggedly pursuing this scheme which is not conservative and generates howls from appropriators and House conservatives alike, got Shuster into a lot of trouble in his re-election last year.
Then, that Tea Party primary opponent ran as a Democrat to try to oust him—all over this issue. Shuster won, but he and his allies—including the airlines and Big Labor—dropped hundreds of thousands to save him. He was mercilessly trashed by his local papers for his lack of ethics where all this was concerned. But he and his girlfriend do not care.
Conservatives, and Trump, should.
Trump, as someone with basically no understanding of policy, can be somewhat excused for erroneously buying into this scheme. Shuster was an early backer of his, and Trump has heard plenty “good” about the plan from him, as well as his girlfriend’s paymasters who have put in serious time, effort and money pushing the Trump administration on this. Trump has a tendency to buy into the last thing he heard from someone who was nice and friendly to him, so that probably explains this—that, plus the fact that his Deputy Transportation Secretary nominee apparently lawyered for Airlines for America, so Trump and his neophyte staff are probably hearing a bevy of “good” stuff about this plan from him, too, while missing the rest.
But the plan is opposed by 62% of Americans according to a recent poll; and even if it weren’t, it’s hard to believe that Trump voters last fall went to the polls and selected him over Hillary Clinton because they desperately wanted more cronyist, hated-industry-benefiting, union-giveaway schemes rammed through the federal government. It’s also unlikely that they were looking for more policy hostile to the Department of Defense, which this “privatization”—or more accurately, corporatization—plainly is.
Shuster has an understandable, if objectively awful and objectionable, reason for supporting this nonsense. Trump does not. In fact, if cronyist and big labor love, combined with Pentagon dislike of it weren’t enough to justify his dumping on it, Trump’s former life as the owner of a plane of one type that would be massively taxed by the airline and union-dominated board should be enough to put him off it.
Much like House Republicans’ dubious Obamacare “repeal” and “replacement” (a.k.a., “tinker” and “entrench”) scheme has garnered opposition from committed conservatives sufficient that its future looks bleak, so too should this particular proposal. Privatization is a great thing, but privatization this is not. And as a result, this proposal should never make it to the House floor, let alone the President’s desk.
The post The dirty, shady, crony capitalist, union giveaway in Trump’s new budget appeared first on RedState.