Let’s take the 2012 FAA budget of $15.9 billion.
Now let’s reduce that by sequestration ($637 million) and you get $15.3 billion.
Adjust it for inflation, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI inflation calculator, and you have $14.3 billion in 2008 dollars.
Which is still higher in real terms than the FAA’s 2008 budget.
Air traffic control handled planes in 2008 with less money than the FAA has now, post-sequestration.
What’s more, there were one million more flights in 2008 than there were in 2012.
They used to do a whole lot more than they have to do today, with less money.
A 4% cut to budget, even normalized across an entire year, does not have to wreak havoc on the traveling public unless the FAA chooses to make those cuts in the most painful way they possibly can in order to score a political point.
It’s an open question how much damage they will do to the U.S. economy, and an open question who will get the blame for it from the electorate. But there is no reason for this to happen other than cynical politics, and those involved should truly be ashamed of themselves.
I’m not taking sides in budget debates with this post. All things equal I think that sequestration is a silly way to make cuts, but it’s the result of a dysfunctional political system so it’s unsurprising that we get there. I do think that folks actually running government agencies have an obligation to run them in as mission effective a way as possible under the budget circumstances given, rather than making political decisions which inflict far more damage than necessary in hopes of winning political arguments with the voters.