The cost of keeping commercial flights coming and going in little Ely, Nev., is extremely high, because there's almost no demand for the flights.
So the federal government has gone out of its way to subsidize flights to Ely and a number of other rural airports around the country. Congress strangely labels these subsidized flights to places where few people want to go the "Essential Air Service" program.
Well, in communities that are part of the obviously non-essential "Essential Air Service" program, the subsidies can be incredibly expensive. In Ely, for instance, your tax dollars provide a $3,700 subsidy for every passenger. Without the subsidies, the commercial flights would stop because the normal free-market prices that airlines would have to charge for tickets would be far higher than travelers are willing to pay.
To add to the waste, some flights to and from Ely are empty except for the crew, and some communities served by the Essential Air Service program are within easy driving distance of larger cities that have more affordable flights.
Does this program sound like a sensible use of your taxes?
We don't think so, and neither does the U.S. House of Representatives. The House passed a bill to fund the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration, but it chopped out some of the pork-barrel spending on subsidized flights.
Nothing could be more reasonable. But the Democrat-run Senate rejected the cuts, so many of the operations of the FAA recently ceased. Flights and airport safety protocols continued, but a number of construction projects and other duties of the FAA stopped, which idled thousands of workers.
Now, a deal has been struck to fund the FAA's operations at least temporarily. But until that deal was reached, Democrats were in effect holding the functions of the FAA hostage in order to protect millions of dollars worth of pork for wasteful subsidies for a handful of rural airports.
Congress' priority should be the proper, efficient financing of the constitutional functions of the federal government. It should not be defending pork-barrel spending and worsening the national debt.
We are glad the FAA will become fully operational again, but it is appalling that its work was held up because Democrats did not want to surrender even a small amount of unjustified federal spending.