Essential Air Service should not be supported by conservatives, Republicans

National debt is approaching $20 trillion ($20,000,000,000,000.00) – Drops in the bucket add up to a full bucket

The national debt of the United States is approaching $20 trillion dollars. That’s right – $20  trillion. Let’s put all the zeroes on $20 trillion – $20,000,000,000,000.00. That is almost $155,000 in debt owed by every man, woman and child living in this country. Now, let’s talk about Essential Air Service. EAS has always been a sore spot with me. This is a program the U.S. taxpayer subsidizes to small airports serving less-urban areas. The program currently subsidizes four airports in Mississippi – Tupelo, Meridian, Hattiesburg-Laurel and Greenville. I’d like to note an excellent report on EAS written by journalist Steve Wilson of Mississippi Watchdog.org. Mississippi Watchdog is part of a 50-state national organization sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. It is a network of news websites reporting on state and local government issues. The stated mission of the organization is to hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable for handling of taxpayer dollars and to focus on government waste. The highly regarded Columbia Journalism Review says the Watchdog sites  are “impressive”. If you’re not receiving the emails of Wilson and reading the web site, I strongly recommend it. Wilson often does a better job of investigative reporting than much larger news organizations in the state. He has especially done a fine job reporting on the boondoggle that is better known as the Kemper County energy plant built by Mississippi Power Company. But let’s

go back to EAS. An April 10 report by Wilson notes EAS is one of President Trump’s proposed budget cuts, but the service “is not going anywhere.” When EAS was originally funded by Congress, it was intended to sunset after 10 years. That was 41 years ago. Last year the OMB said axing the program could save $175 million. One of the biggest and most outspoken EAS supporters in our congressional delegation is Sen. Roger Wicker. Note that Wicker is from Tupelo, one of the state’s EAS airports. Also note that Wicker flies out of D.C. to Mississippi at taxpayer expense and he insists on flying first class. The EAS subsidy (taxpayer subsidy) at one airport in the nation is $977 per passenger. The Congressional Research Service reports that since the early 2000s federal subsidies to EAS have tripled to almost $300 million per year. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Greenville received $2.1 million, Hattiesburg-Laurel received $3.1 in taxpayer subsidies, Meridian received $2.9 million and Wicker’s home airport received $4.3 million in EAS subsidies. Wicker and other Tupelo passengers should drive to Memphis or Starkville-Columbus Golden Triangle Regional Airport for flights. Hattiesburg is even worse. Airline passengers from that area could easily make reasonably short trips to New Orleans, Biloxi-Gulfport Regional or Jackson to book non-taxpayer subsidized flights. There’s a lot of hypocrisy on the liberal side of the political spectrum. It is sometimes equaled by conservative Republican hypocrisy. As a side note, a few years ago before his death, Republican Congressman Alan Nunnelee was the only member of our state’s delegation to cast a no vote when the U.S. House voted to continue EAS subsidies. Like Wicker, Nunnelee was also from Tupelo. His was a true conservative vote on the issue.

Earmarks for horse arenas are not conservative; opposing military base closures not needed for national security is not conservative

When Republican Trent Lott served in the U.S. Senate and was Majority Leader, he was never short of conservative rhetoric, especially when he was in Mississippi. Yet many years ago, before earmarks were discontinued by Congress, Lott got an earmark for a horse arena in Vancleave, MS. There is no justification for a federal expenditure to construct a horse arena. Congress and the Department of Defense have had several rounds of base closures. Without exception, conservative Republicans in the Mississippi congressional delegation, and conservative Democrats like Sonny Montgomery and Gene Taylor, fought tooth and nail to stop the state’s military installations from being closed. Military bases should only remain open if they are vital to national security. If the Pentagon can save millions by closing a base that is not needed for national defense, the installation should be closed. Yet, every time a base in Mississippi has been threatened during previous base closure rounds, our conservative representatives and the conservative business people in the affected communities go all out to oppose closure. Closing a military base funded by taxpayers is not the same as protecting a private sector industry. Reminder, the national debt will soon reach $20,000,000,000,000.00. There are those who will argue that funding for EAS, horse arenas, other earmarks and military bases that should be closed is only a drop in the bucket of total federal spending. Enough drops in the bucket will fill the bucket.

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