Why this? Why now? According to recent reports from CNN and others, Rep. Bill Shuster, the chairman of House Transportation Committee wants to privatize our air-traffic control system. The current system flawlessly controls thousands of high-risk flight operations daily, in all weather and under all conditions. It’s the rare government-managed system that consistently works well. Yet Shuster wants to ‘reform’ it.
I’m an outspoken advocate of shrinking Washington’s role in transportation. However, as a 29-year military pilot, I find the nature and timing of this proposal from Shuster to be particularly intriguing and questionable. Why this, why now?
After the Amtrak tragedy this spring in Philadelphia, why isn’t Shuster pushing for privatization reform of Amtrak? The government’s interference and subsidization of that organization has led to pitiful performance on every level.
Or why does he refuse to move control of highways back to the states? At a time when federal mismanagement and misallocation has resulted in nearly perpetual “bankruptcy,” it’s an idea whose time has come.
Or how about the nation’s waterways and harbors in need of modernization and expansion? There, federal monopolistic control prevents local and private action.
Why is Shuster suddenly fixated on privatizing one transportation system that works, and so opposed to reforming the many transportation sectors that are broken?
Why this, why now?
These are, of course, rhetorical questions. The answer is lobbyist influence over Shuster.
According to Bloomberg, this move on air-traffic control is strongly supported by the airline industry and their lobbyists who have much to gain. This included Airlines for America, who voiced their public support in the Bloomberg article.
Not-so-shockingly, Shuster is dating a lobbyist from that very trade organization. Shuster wants us to believe that his judgment and decision making are not influenced by this “private and personal” relationship. I guess he also expects us to believe this relationship and his push to privatize air traffic control are completely unrelated. The fact is, they are intrinsically related and they place public safety at risk.
How stupid does he think we are?
We need elected leaders who stand for us. Not politicians ‘in private relationship’ with lobbyists and special interest groups. Unfortunately, that’s not the sort of representation we have in Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District right now.