It seems as though everyone in Washington likes to "talk the talk" about the need to cut spending but, when the cuts have real-life consequences (like the sequestration-induced flight delays), suddenly, they don't take on the same sense of urgency or priority.
Republicans are quick to point out that they have "walked the walk" by voting for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget, which proposes to cut spending and claims to balance the budget in ten years. But is that really walking the walk? Voting for Ryan's budget as a Republican in the House is about as easy a vote as you could ever make. There is no way that it would ever pass the Senate and the president would certainly veto it. It's truly a vote with no real consequences.
According to Third Way's budget analyst David Kendall, under Ryan's plan, spending on transportation would be 26.1 percent lower in 2014 than it is today. If the cuts were applied to air-traffic control programs, Kendall projects, "there would be 3,092 more flight cancellations and 68,683 delays annually. At the U.S. average of 49 passengers per flights, that's enough to strand 151,503 more people at the gate and make 3,365,685 more people late every year." On paper, those are real cuts with real and significant consequences.
[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]
In March, both Democrats and Republicans made an agreement and the policy of sequestration went into effect, implementing across-the-board spending cuts affecting defense and domestic programs. Part of the consequences was a $600 million cut to the Federal Aviation Administration requiring 13,000 air traffic controllers to be furloughed and substantial flight delays to occur.
Suddenly, Senate Republicans that had voted for Paul Ryan's budget, with even more drastic cuts to air traffic control, were voicing their outrage. "It's meant to impact in the most negative way possible on the air traveling public," said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas. "Why the president, why the administration, would want to impose this sort of hardship on millions of Americans … is beyond me."
Seriously? Where was this concern and outrage previously? Could it be that they knew the Ryan budget cuts they voted on would never see the light of day? Voting for the Ryan budget cuts allowed Republicans to simply "talk the talk" and disingenuously boast to their constituents back home that they went to Washington and voted to cut spending.
[See a collection of political cartoons on sequestration and the fiscal cliff.]
President Obama rightfully chastised lawmakers in his weekly address for hypocritically demanding more spending cuts while keeping funding for programs that fall within their selfish purview, saying, "maybe because they fly home each weekend, the members of Congress who insisted on these cuts finally realized that they actually applied to them too."
Now, Congress has sent the president a legislative fix to restore funding for the furloughed air traffic control workers. Obama should take his own advice when he said, "we can't just keep putting band aids on every cut," and veto the measure. He needs to hold everyone responsible for "walking the walk."
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