Bipartisanship Triumphs as Wasteful Subsidies To Small-Town Airports Survive

A blog about business and economics.
June 27 2012 2:21 PM

Bipartisanship Triumphs as Wasteful Subsidies To Small-Town Airports Survive

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Hagerstown Regional Airport

flyhagerstown.com

If I lived in a small community where it wasn't economical to provide schedule airplane service, I would welcome a federal program to subsidize said service to my airport. Then again I would welcome a federal program to put money directly in my pocket even more. Giving a dedicated aviation subsidy doesn't make much sense. If the economy value of subsidized air service exceeded the cost, it would make sense for the town to subsidize it on our own accord. And there's clear no particular federal interest in subsidizing this kind of purely local benefit. If anything, encouraging excessive use of airspace and jet fuel creates "public bads." Subsidizing daily flights from Hagerstown, MD to BWI airport 75 miles away is nice for Hagerstown residents who might otherwise need to drive (or take the bus) there but it doesn't advance any important national goals.

And yet just last night an effort by Rep Tod McClintock (R-CA) to kill the federal Essential Air Service program went down to defeat with 77 Republicans joining 161 Democrats to keep this wasteful program in place. Unfortunately that's how it normally goes with bipartisanship—an issue cuts across party lines precisely because it's some kind of pointless giveaway.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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