While Congress is rolling back on scientific and environmental programs, it is continuing to spend $200 million in subsidies to pay for people to fly in nearly empty planes from remote airfields under the Essential Air Service program. Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are planning to kill the 200-year-old page system to save $5 million, but they supported this continuing program costing almost a quarter of a billion dollars. In some cases, a coach ticket cost the taxpayers over $4000 in subsidies.
Take flights out of Ely, Nevada. The Great Lakes Airlines flight to Las Vegas on this occasion carried just one passenger. In total, only 227 passengers flew out of Ely in the entire year of 2010 — paying 70-90 dollars. The taxpayers however paid $4,107 per ticket.
In Jackson, Tenn., the subsidy is less: $244 for each of the 2,514 people who flew out of the airport last year. Yet, the subsidy makes it worth to fly empty planes. Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation supports the current funding.
Faye Malarkey Black, a vice president for the Regional Airline Association, is quoted as saying “They call it essential for a reason . . . If you take away air service, who wants to live in those communities?” Well, isn’t that the point. When you move to a town, you have to consider a variety of factors, including transportation. In that way, people tend to congregate in areas with reduced travel costs or factor in the higher travel costs into their budgets. The question is why the government should subsidize folks living in remote areas at a higher energy and transportation costs. This is similar to the federal subsidies or protections offered to folks living on flood plains who are repeatedly washed out in hurricanes.
What do you think?