Tulsa World Editorial Writers TULSA WORLD
Oklahoma Budget Hawks Squawk About Trump’s Plans to Privatize Air Traffic Controllers … and They’re Right
June 17, 2017
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  • Some of Oklahoma’s most virulent budget hawks are squawking about President Trump’s plan to privatize the air traffic control system.

    Trump has backed a plan to run the air traffic control system through a nonprofit organization. Getting air traffic controllers off the federal payroll will make travel easier and cheaper for Americans, Trump claimed. 

    U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., called the idea “the dumbest thing we’ve ever thought about doing.” He said it was a threat to private pilots and national security.

    Russell’s congressional district includes the FAA’s Mike Monroney Center, whose mission includes training air traffic controllers. The center has some 6,500 employees, Russell said.

    U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., also has spoken out against the idea, saying he plans to make it so controversial that it will endanger the FAA’s re-authorization.

    We agree with Russell and Inhofe. Air traffic control is the government’s job and it ought not be farmed out to the low bidder.

    The federal government built the air traffic control system, which is largely responsible for the remarkable safety record of air travel in the United States, despite the incredible number of flights on a daily basis.

    Frankly, we doubt the president’s claim that privatization would make air travel easier and cheaper, and we note that he didn’t claim it would make it any safer, which ought to be the premium in this case. 

    It isn’t lost on us either that the transfer would raise costs to private pilots to the delight of big airlines.

    Russell and Inhofe like to show off their record for fighting against big government. On Monday, only two days after he decried the privatization plan, Russell released “Waste Watch No. 7,” the latest of his efforts to embarrass people who get public funding.

    Our cynical side is tempted to say that when it comes to keeping air traffic controllers on the federal payroll, one man’s pork is another man’s poison; but we will resist that urge and simply welcome Russell and Inhofe for their support of keeping essential government services within the government’s control.

    We’ll be glad to see them continue that sort of thinking about programs that won’t affect thousands of jobs in their backyards in the future.