Tucked away in the details of President Obama’s 2013 budget are a couple of relatively small but significant cuts.
One is to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that helps poor children opt out of failing public schools in the nation’s capital. In 2011, Republicans in Congress fought to restore funding to the voucher program after Obama cut it in his FY2010 budget, and they managed to restore those funds for five years in the FY2012 compromise package.
Now, Obama has removed the entire $13 million for this program in his FY2013 budget proposal, a move that his union supporters in the National Education Association will cheer, but which will create despair among parents whose children will once again be denied access to school choice in Washington D.C.
Obama’s red line has also cut the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program in half, reducing its funding from an FY2012 level of $25 million to just $12 million in FY2013. At the same time, the budget reduces the federal Air Marshal budget by 4 percent, a reduction of $36.5 million. FFDO trains and provides continuous certification for commercial pilots to arm themselves in the cockpit, and air marshals provide plainclothes security to intervene in any security emergency.
The White House claims that TSA screening has reduced the need for both programs, a claim that produced a scoffing response from a former pilot contacted by CNN. Mark Weiss, who served as the deputy chair for security issues with the pilot’s union while he flew for American Airlines, said it sends a signal to armed pilots that they’re not highly valued, and that is a message “that they're very appreciative of hearing in terrorist camps around the world.”
Budgets are commonly described as statements of priorities. That’s as true for a household budget as it is for a corporate one, and it’s certainly true for Obama’s proposal. Where we invest our money demonstrates the underlying needs and principles of those who crafted the budget, in line items large and small. The cuts to the D.C. Scholarship Opportunity Program and the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program demonstrate the priorities of an ideologue rather than a pragmatic leader who recognizes needs over political calculation, as does one program for which Obama wants to increase funding.
The cost savings from pushing poor kids out of the voucher program and making commercial flight less safe together add up to about $63 million. On the other side of the ledger: taxpayer subsidies for buying Chevy Volts.
The electric vehicle produced by GM has flopped, thanks to a high price tag for the subcompact model and the lack of resale value resulting from the expensive batteries that will have to be replaced in five to eight years at a cost of $8000 or more. At the moment, GM has sold only about 7,700 Volts with a taxpayer subsidy of $7500 per car, for a cost of $57.8 million without including administrative costs.