Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
June 08, 2017 - Issue 702

Trump Fixing Things
That Are Not Broken


"In recent years, the FAA has even tried to
convince veteran expert controllers to stay
on past their retirement dates, but who
wouldn’t want to leave a place with such a
burden of responsibility for thousands of lives
and very little acknowledgment of their
vital work or its importance?"

Among the many catastrophes that Donald Trump has foisted on the battered people of the United States, he announced on Monday that he intends to privatize the country’s air traffic control system.

It could be that he didn’t think that Ronald Reagan went far enough when he fired 11,500 air traffic controllers in 1981, and then blacklisted them so that they never would be able to work in federal service again. More on Reaganism later.

Trump gathered a group of Republicans to back him up, as he signed a “decision memo” that announced his plan to privatize air traffic control. His back-ups included three transportation secretaries who served under the Reagan and George W. Bush Administrations, Elizabeth Dole, James Burnley, and Mary Peters. He also had a few of his GOP primary opponents, including “Lying Ted” (his nickname for the senator from Texas) Cruz.

He stated, “We live in a modern age yet our air traffic control system is stuck, painfully, in the past, but after billions and billions of tax dollars spent and the many years of delays, we’re still stuck with an ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work.” He did note that the Federal Aviation Administration has been trying to “fix” the system for years, but has failed. Everyone seems to be failing, but Trump, in his unique perspective on the nation, the world, and reality.

To most citizens, what he does with the air traffic control system is minor, compared with his brash and ignorant decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, saying that he was elected president to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris. But, considering the size of the U.S., its population of 320 million, and the number of flights that take off and land every day, the system that exists today is quite remarkable. That, however, never mattered to a failed businessman who pretends to understand the workings of any institution, including the federal government, which he is supposed to guide in a positive way until he leaves office. That’s why his utterance during his privatization announcement Monday can be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Modern systems will always need work to improve them, but that only allows someone like Trump to dissemble, if not lie, about them. We’re used to it.

A quick look at the condition of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the successor to the Reagan-destroyed Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), will give any inquiring person the necessary insight into the problems of air traffic control and it does not rest with the controllers, themselves. NATCA came into being a half-dozen years after PATCO was rubbed out by the Republican president who famously proclaimed, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Not that it did not happen before, but from the time of Reagan, Republicans (with help from the Democrats) have been systematically reducing government and its programs to help real people and, in some cases, it has managed to remove the government wholesale.

Trump, the businessman who specializes in bailing himself out via bankruptcies, has taken the nonsense of Reagan and is trying his best to emulate the myths perpetrated by that president. However, he, like Reagan, is starving programs that work, so that they appear not to work, so they can either be eliminated, reduced in size and effectiveness, or privatized. Without knowing much about it, Trump has decided to privatize air traffic control.

Before Reagan was elected in 1980, PATCO met with him and told him of the stress and danger experienced by its members, that staffing needed to be improved and the stress reduced. He promised to meet with them after the election. After he won, he would not meet with the controllers and they, even though they knew they were prohibited from striking, struck. He fired them. In that campaign, PATCO and the Teamsters were the only unions that endorsed Reagan.

The air traffic control system continued after the firing and blacklisting, using scab labor and anyone else who had any experience in air traffic control. In 1987, NATCA was organized as a union and, even in their founding papers, they themselves prohibited any strike or work stoppage. They didn’t need management to curb their rights. But, NATCA affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, which became 11,000 members larger in the process.

Again, though, the federal government, via the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), exercised its prerogative to keep staffing at the same level or at a reduced level, supposedly to save money. Where have the controllers wandered? Even though there are more planes (maybe, fewer airlines) and more passengers, they are expected to control the air lanes with the same or fewer staff. Sounds like 1981 all over again. In 2005-06, when negotiations got tough and talks went on for many months, the FAA imposed conditions and effectively removed the bargaining rights, without so much as a word from the Cheney-Bush Administration.

NATCA has tracked the number of controllers and said this in congressional testimony in May 2017: “The number of fully certified air traffic controllers has declined each year since 2012, reaching a 28-year low. Among its recommendations, NATCA is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue to take a holistic, collaborative approach to resolving the staffing crisis, and is advocating for a stable, predictable funding stream for the FAA. That includes ensuring that the FAA is not subject to future sequester cuts, like what occurred in 2013 that had very negative consequences for staffing and hiring. The FAA exceeded its air traffic controller hiring goal for fiscal year 2016, but it missed its hiring mark each of the previous seven years. That contributed to the total staffing number falling nearly 10 percent since 2011. Additionally, 29 percent of the total of fully certified controllers are eligible to retire today.”

In a chart tracking the decline of the number of controllers since 2011, the situation is much more dramatic (down to 10,532 in March 2017). Even Trump, if he had ever seen the numbers and viewed the graph, would be able to understand the dire straits of the lives of air traffic controllers and why they are asking that more controllers be hired and more attention be paid to the stress on the job and the danger to the flying public of ignoring the problems and blaming the FAA and the controllers.

In recent years, the FAA has even tried to convince veteran expert controllers to stay on past their retirement dates, but who wouldn’t want to leave a place with such a burden of responsibility for thousands of lives and very little acknowledgment of their vital work or its importance? But such a condition leaves the ignorant, including the president, to make up their own speculation and to push for privatization of that FAA function.

However much Trump strutted and bragged that he was going to clean up “the swamp” of Washington, he has done nothing to accomplish that. If anything, he has proven himself to be just another cog in the rusty and creaky Republican “party of no,” no to anything that provides for the people who work for wages and for anyone they feel does not deserve any assist or anything from their government—the poor, elderly, disabled, and minorities. The rich and the corporations deserve everything and he intends to get it for them. He’s also one of them.

It should not have come as a surprise to anyone that he is seeking to privatize air traffic control, because it’s just one of the functions of government that he and his GOP are trying to privatize. For a few examples, they are privatizing education, the military, municipal water systems, much basic scientific research (with government money, of course), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and even the U.S. Postal Service. In the case of the USPS, Congress has placed a fiscal burden on it that no corporation would be able to carry. (The Post Office is being required by law to provide for retirement benefits 75 years into the future, for workers who are not even born yet.) And, since the service is “losing” so much money, by making those multi-billion-dollar annual payments, the GOP can say that it is failing and so, privatize it.

There is no end to the methods that Republicans (and many Democrats) have undertaken that would justify the destruction of the institutions of government. Yet, that’s what is happening and for one reason: Privatization of public wealth (the government, its resources, and its institutions) allows the rich and the corporations, which control most of national life, to put that wealth directly into their own coffers. It could not be more blatant if there were a needle stuck into a vein to directly withdraw the economic lifeblood of a nation. It’s what has happened for several generations, but the ability to do just that has become the overriding principle and goal of the powers that be. Trump is just the latest figurehead in this effort. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Perry NoName: A Journal From A Federal Prison-book 1
Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers