Doubling Down on Infrastructure: President Trump and Air Traffic Control

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What can we expect from the President’s plan to privatize air traffic control?

President Trump released a plan to privatize the air traffic control system on Monday.  Privatization is expected to lower flying costs and modernize the present system, providing much-needed technological advances to take root.  “We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency and far fewer delays… Our plan will get you where you need to go quickly, more reliably, more affordably, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time,” Trump said.

The proposal received immediate criticism from Democrats.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it “a tired Republican plan that both sides of the aisle have rejected” and would “hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines.”

Trump’s proposal comes as part of the White House’s focus on infrastructure this week, shifting the administration’s attention back to fulfilling one of Trump’s big campaign promises.  The move will help bring focus back to Trump’s agenda amid continued questions about Russia. 

Most airlines support the plan to move air traffic control away from the Federal Aviation Administration and into the private sector.  Currently, the FAA handles more than 50,000 flights a day and more than 700 million passengers each year. It spends nearly $10 billion a year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel according to CNBC.

The proposal still needs congressional approval.  It is currently opposed by most Democrats and a few Republicans, but Republicans have the majority in both chambers of Congress.  

A similar plan was pushed last year in 2016 by Republicans, but it gain less traction because the Republicans did not have the White House.  

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor to voice his concerns about the proposal:  “This would put the same airline companies who have added baggage fees, change fees and shrunk leg room in charge of the air traffic control system…Under a private system, what stops airlines from raising fees and taxes on consumers?”

Supporters of the plan believe it will lower costs, increase economic freedom, and make the system more efficient.  Opponents are satisfied with the current system and claim that costs would actually increase in a private system due to the lack of regulation.  

We’ll see what else the White House produces during “infrastructure week.”  The administration will be trying to keep everyone focused on its agenda, but with James Comey testifying publicly before the Senate panel on Thursday, that might be unlikely.  

Alex studies Physics: Quantitative Finance at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. He is from San Antonio, Texas but currently resides in Augusta, Georgia. Alex writes about American politics, often from a conservative perspective.

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