Why Is the House Funding Wasteful EAS Spending?

The House voted against an amendment to offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Richard Hudson (R-NC), and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) that would have reduced discretionary funding for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Essential Air Service (EAS) program, a program that was set to expire in 1989.

During his floor speech, Rep. McClintock correctly noted:

The total sequester cut to the FAA was roughly $636 million and they took that out on the travelling public.

And yet, they had $243 million to pay for empty and near-empty flights from selected airports in tiny communities under a program that is laughingly called “Essential Air Service.”  It is in fact, about the least essential air service possible.

Since we last visited this issue, the FAA reauthorization bill made some minor reforms to the program.  For example, we are no longer subsidizing air travel from communities that are within a 90 mile radius of a major airport and the per passenger subsidy has been capped at $1,000 per passenger.

Apologists for this wasteful spending tell us it is an important economic driver for these small towns – and I’m sure that’s so – whenever you give away money, the folks you’re giving it to are always better off.  But the folks you’re taking it from are always worse off to exactly the same extent.  Indeed, it is economic drivers like this that have driven Europe’s economy right off a cliff.

Last year, one member rushed to the microphones to suggest this was essential for emergency medical evacuations.  It has nothing to do with that.  This program subsidizes regular, scheduled, commercial service that practically nobody uses.  If it actually had a passenger base, we wouldn’t need, in effect, to hand out $1,000 bills to the few passengers who use it, would we? 

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Congress voted to maintain wasteful spending for the "Essential Air Service" program of the FAA.

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