A Problem with Subsidies

Nov. 8, 2000

A Problem with Subsidies

By Ralph Hood

November 2000

Ralph Hood is a Certified Speaking Professional who has addressed aviation groups throughout North America. A pilot since 1969, he?s insured and sold airplanes at retail and distributor levels and taught aviation management for Southern Illinois University. He currently serves as National CFI Marketing Mentor for AOPA?s Project Pilot Instructor Program. Reach him at [email protected] I realize this may endanger my status as a card-carrying charter member of the Fire-Breathing Free Market Disciples of America — but so be it.

Here in Huntsville, AL, we have a beautiful airport built way back in 1965. It has two north/south parallel runways, but no east/west runways. It was planned with an east/west runway. It was graded for an east/west runway. The runway is actually there, but was never paved. It was never paved because the feds — three and a half decades ago — had just decided that intersecting runways were dangerous. Simultaneous operations from intersecting runways, said the feds, were unsafe. Now, in this enlightened new millennium, the feds would have us believe that either they were wrong, lo those many years ago, or something has changed in the meantime.

I?m not buying it.
This is one more example of the guvmint subsidizing problems. Not subsidizing solutions to problems, but subsidizing the problems themselves.

What we need is not more traffic at O?Hare; what we need is alternatives to O?Hare. Ditto Atlanta?s Hartsfield, Dallas? DFW, Los Angeles? LAX, etc., and so forth ad infinitum. Southwest, by operating out of Midway and Love fields, has done more to alleviate delays at O?Hare and DFW than the guvmint. (The story goes that they tried to do the same for Atlanta by operating out of Fulton County, but the city fathers and Delta stopped them.)

Our various levels of guvmint have a habit of this. Anytime we get too many people in one place, the guvmint tries to make it easier for those people to stay there.

Not enough water in California? Let us import water from other states and deliver it to California farmers so cheaply there is no incentive for them to save it. In Israel, where water is expensive, irrigation ditches are lined with plastic sheeting to keep it from seeping away into the ground. Not so in California. The guvmint subsidizes the problem; more people move in and the problem worsens.

Our guvmint wants to encourage the use of alternative fuels. So, what do they do? Hold down the cost of gasoline by dipping into our strategic reserves. Thus, they lessen the appeal of alternative fuels. They are subsidizing the problem.

Do we have unemployed coal miners concentrated in parts of the country where there are no operating coal mines? Our guvmint pays them not to work, thus reducing the incentive to leave, thus subsidizing the problem.

Now, thanks in large part to guvmint shortsightedness, we desperately need alternative airports. The guvmint solution? Make it easier to crowd even more traffic into the already overcrowded airports we do have. This lowers the appeal of alternative airports and thus, once again, subsidizes the problem.

Damned if I understand it.