Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Go Away, FAA, They Say

As if there needed to be another reason to vote down the debt extension bill crafted by Republicans Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama.

House Republicans have blocked extension of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization over a provision they have sponsored which would overturn a ruling by the National Mediation Board that nonvoting members not be counted when airline and railroad employees vote on whether to form a union. The House passed a funding bill with the anti-worker authorization but Senate Majority Leader Reid has not posted its own, with the House anti-worker provision deleted, in part because it's understood that the GOP-controlled chamber would reject it.

Stop-work orders have been issued on more than 150 airport construction projects as 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 construction workers have been idled since operating authority ran out on July 23. The House, having played the lead role in this as well as the debt fiasco, has recessed, with the Senate soon to follow, and resolution of the FAA crisis has to await their return.

It's not just public sector unions anymore. As GOP governors throughout the nation attack public employee unions, national Republicans are doing their part by going after private sector unions. Federal employees and construction workers lose their jobs while the FAA cannot collect approximately $200 million per week in airplane taxes and other fees. (Several airlines have patriotically stepped up and raised their ticket prices to make up the difference, however.) It's the Republican version of a jobs bill, apparently.

Given that GOP members of Congress, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, argue that a non-vote should count as a vote against change and for the status quo, perhaps a Democrat should introduce a bill proposing that all registered voters who do not vote in a presidential election be counted as a vote for the incumbent. More realistically, Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, one of 95 Democrats who voted against the debt ceiling legislation, argued

Minimally, they could have restored funding and taxation that funds the Federal Aviation Administration. That would put 94,000 people back to work. They didn't even do that. There's no investment, no jobs, coming out of this bill.

But as DeFazio knows, the debt negotiators never were concerned about jobs notwithstanding, as The New York Times' Joe Nocera explains

America’s real crisis is not a debt crisis. It’s an unemployment crisis. Yet this agreement not only doesn’t address unemployment, it’s guaranteed to make it worse. (Incredibly, the Democrats even abandoned their demand for extended unemployment benefits as part of the deal.) As Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive of the bond investment firm Pimco, told me, fiscal policy includes both a numerator and a denominator. “The numerator is debt,” he said. “But the denominator is growth.” He added, “What we have done is accelerate forward, in a self-inflicted manner, the numerator. And, in the process, we have undermined the denominator.” Economic growth could have gone a long way toward shrinking the deficit, while helping put people to work. The spending cuts will shrink growth and raise the likelihood of pushing the country back into recession.

Barack Obama has his deal, his kind of deal, which is any kind of deal. The independents presidential adviser David Plouffe wants to pacify may even applaud the agreement and give the President a short-term boost in ratings. But whatever their interest in bipartisanship, those same independents (like the FAA employees crushed by the Repub Party) are not going to be doing much applauding when the economy, rattled by cuts in spending, goes south.

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