First of all there is no ‘fiscal cliff’ — there’s a series of changes in law as well as fiscal circumstances that cluster around the same time. And the analogy is misleading because in most cases nothing irreversible happens on January 1; tax rates if reset can be done so retroactively to the start of the year, program spending put on hold a few days can still be greenlit, etc.
But even if we go past December 31 under current law, none of the Really. Scary. Things.(tm) being predicted in travel will actually come to pass. At least not the bad stuff leading this USA Today piece.
The big threat is that if Congress and President Obama can’t reach an agreement on spending cuts and tax increases, automatic spending cuts are scheduled to hit the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration on Jan. 2.
If that should happen, the FAA could be forced to close more than 100 smaller airports because they’d have fewer air-traffic controllers, according to separate reports by a former congressional aide and a current lawmaker.
I debunked this story back in September. FAA cuts would predominantly come from capital accounts, meaning delays in modernizing air traffic control.
The USA Today story goes on to warn of severe layoffs at TSA:
And, they warn, the TSA could lay off thousands of baggage screeners, which could force the agency to abandon full-body screening for hundreds of thousands of passengers at airports each day.
Except… nothing is actually going to happen on January 1.
But because lawmakers are expected to continue negotiations in January if they can’t reach agreement, government officials say there should be no immediate changes at FAA or TSA.
..David Castelveter, a spokesman at TSA, says that “if a budget agreement is not reached, front-line screening operations would continue uninterrupted.”
Darn, I was hoping something positive might come from all of the drama playing out (and being played up) on television.
And yet the rest of the piece of full of a parade of horribles that is best understand as representing the interests of the people being quoted, the airline industry lobbies for more government funding for air traffic control so they warn of the terrible things that will come if that doesn’t come to pass. But it’s a stretch to suggest any of those terrible things are real. Just as any budget showdown focuses on the most visible projects that enjoy the most popular support, so too does this article.
NextGen air traffic control may well be a good thing, may well warrant investment, but doesn’t generate the sort of outrage, worry, or indignation that ‘unsafe planes’ headlines would. But that’s really what we’re talking about — delayed investment in capital projects, not immediate layoffs of personnel.