Take a look at the GOP ‘s vision of Galt’s heaven, air travel division:
PASSENGERS fainted when a 5-foot hole opened in the roof of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 flying from Phoenix to Sacramento last week. The most frightening moment may have been when, as one passenger said, “You could look out and see blue sky.”[But] on [that] very day … the House of Representatives passed a bill likely to make it more difficult to detect and prevent midair ruptures, metal fatigue and other serious flight risks.
The bill would cut $4 billion from the Federal Aviation Administration’s $37 billion budget. Representative John L. Mica, a Florida Republican who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says the bill would streamline F.A.A. programs and promised the bill would “not negatively impact aviation safety.
I’m guessing that would be because the dead don’t care and hell, who needs an FAA anyway?
Or rather, maybe this is all part of the Randian conspiracy to make trains relevant again. Certainly, everything William McGee documents in his op-ed in today’s Times makes me regret every trip I’ve scheduled for the rest of the year:
Outsourcing, under which airlines shift repair and maintenance work from union employees to low-wage workers overseas and in the United States, compounds the already existing burden on safety inspectors.
Dozens of F.A.A. inspectors have told me that they no longer have enough money to conduct inspections at repair stations in China, Singapore, El Salvador, the Philippines and Mexico and other distant locations at which major fleets of American-based airlines undergo maintenance.
…The number of foreign repair stations hired to service American planes more than doubled, to 731, from 2004 to 2009. There have been alarming revelations: the Department of Transportation reported the discovery in 2003 of a worker with ties to Al Qaeda at an overseas repair station. In 2005, immigration agents arrested 27 undocumented immigrants working at a North Carolina shop that airlines had contracted for repair work.
Well, maybe McGee’s just a DFH — what’s with this Consumers Union nonsense anyway? Which would be why the current House is acting in such disregard of reports from the Department of Transportation — under George Bush:
…testifying before Congress in 2007, the inspector general of the Department of Transportation, Calvin Scovel III, described instances in which repair work has been contracted out by subcontractors to uncertified shops and unlicensed mechanics. These phantom shops sometimes consist of a sole mechanic who works from the back of a truck … Though drug and alcohol testing is standard for all mechanics who service planes in the United States, a Senate committee found that some overseas repair shops don’t bother with such testing.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome your modern Republican Party.
A conscious decision to weaken an already fractured governmental capacity to perform basic regulatory functions is not part of a dispute on the best way to operate government. The only way to explain the choice to cut FAA budgets at present is if you think the government has no role to play in society at all. When you believe in your heart that the market itself can do no wrong, then the minor matter of airplanes turning into convertibles is insufficiently real to shake your faith in John Galt.
That’s why, while I agree with just about every complaint about the inadequacy of the recent budget deal and much else besides, we have to remember (a) our folks are fighting an asymmetrical war against political terrorists — and it’s damned hard to deal with thugs who are fully willing to destroy the village in order to save it…
…and (b): if we don’t stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood, these same sociopaths will be running the whole damn government next time out.
If you weary of the endless compromise and seeming partial surrenders — as I do — it remains important to remember that we are up against those who, just for this example, see some number of exemplary deaths in the air as just the price you pay for the privilege of living in Galt’s America. If we rage against Obama or any other Democrat for their (admitted and regretted) inabilty to be the perfect expression of our visions of a just society whilst they wrestle with the madness that used to be the Republican party, we take our eyes off the prize: avoiding rule by the worst among us.
That may not be a grand and uplifting vision of progressive improvement in the human condition, but the avoidance of wretchedness is better than the alternative — much, much better.
Just ask anyone who’s seen the sky through what used to be the roof of a 737.
Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Fall of Icarus, before 1569. (Apropos of nothing, a print of this picture was on the wall of the bedroom in which I slept from zero to about 14. I’m not sure what my parents were trying to tell me, but I still love it.)