One jet departs in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as another waits on the tarmac Tuesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:58AM
Hyper-partisan battles and gridlock in Washington have sent government poll numbers plummeting. But in truth the stalemate in the capital only mirrors the polarization of the voters; the system is working as it is supposed to, reflecting the views and divisions of the public. More disturbing are the failings in the day-to-day operation of government that have come to light in recent days.
Exhibit A is the chaos inflicted on air travelers by an Obama administration that is either incompetent to handle mild budget restraint or politically motivated to impose the maximum pain on Americans to score points in the fight over the sequester spending cuts.
During the Great Recession, families and businesses grappled with reduced incomes. They proved to be nimble, innovative and ready to set priorities. None of that has been seen from the Transportation Department or the Federal Aviation Administration. Control tower staffing furloughs were applied across the board, equally to the busiest airports and the quietest ones, causing flight cancellations and delays. The 15,000 air traffic controllers, essential to flight operations, suffered the same level of furloughs as the 32,000 FAA workers who don’t staff control tower radar screens.
All this over a 4 percent budget cut. Anyone competent in business would find ways to set priorities, but this administration is notorious for the low number of Cabinet officials with private enterprise experience. Business managers crave flexibility in decision making, but bureaucrats ran from it, and the White House and its Democratic allies in the Senate have blocked legislation to grant greater flexibility.
Now the anger at airports is running so high Democrats are looking for cover. They propose that FAA sequester cuts be reversed by taking money from defense spending that isn’t going to be spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — in other words, a budget gimmick. Thoughtful folks like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have offered ideas to the FAA on how to keep airports running only to be met with silence. Coburn got it right in arguing the administration is using the sequester as a scapegoat. It’s trying to punish air travelers to enlist them in its drive to end all cuts in spending.
The Boston terrorism also may have exposed government shortcomings. Both the FBI and CIA got warnings from Russia that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was immersed in radical Islamism, but nothing came of it. Oversight committees in Congress will try to determine whether a clue was missed and whether our intelligence and security agencies were operating in a pre-9/11 mentality where they weren’t talking to each other. Further evidence of that possibility is that Tsarnaev “pinged” the Homeland Security Department computer when he left for a seven-month trip to Islamist-inflamed areas of Russia, but apparently that didn’t register with the FBI or CIA.
Then came word that surviving terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was being interrogated by FBI agents when other Justice Department officials showed up to read him his Miranda rights and he clammed up. The left hand didn’t know what the right one was doing.
And there’s been another Solyndra-like debacle. The government cut funding after sending $200 million to Fisker Automotive to manufacture $100,000 electric cars that no one but 1 percenters like actor Leonardo DiCaprio could afford. More taxpayer money thrown away on a green energy fantasy.
It’s not partisanship and gridlock that should have voters angry, but government incompetence and attempts to politically manipulate the public.