Monday, March 31, 2008

The user fee dilemma

As much as possible, even in my day job, I try to avoid politics, which is an odd thing for someone who used to run the political unit at Minnesota Public Radio and started the political blog that the Washington Post recently said was one of the best in the country.

I don't think it's a secret, however, that people who fly are more likely to be Republican than Democrat. Why? Often, it's because pilots tend to come from a military background, and clearly if you can own an airplane, you come from an economic strata that leans more Republican than Democrat. Me? I no longer see much difference -- or usefulness -- in either party since the politicians and their most ardent followers have much more allegiance to their party and their candidate than to their country. But I digress.

User fees. It's an issue that immediately raises the hackles of just about any pilot. General aviation, the theory goes, already pays a fair share and, besides, if we end up paying user fees, it's not like the taxes we spend now are going to come down to compensate for it.

This, it seems to me, is going to cause quite a dilemma for many pilots because the Republican candidate for president loves the idea of user fees (although he says he would limit it to corporate aircraft). And he hates Phil Boyer of the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association, the chief lobbyist against user fees. And the feeling appears to be mutual.

Barack Obama's position is much less clear. But let's assume -- for the sake of the hypothetical -- that he comes out against user fees.

Now what?


  1. Barack Obama's position is much less clear.

    Which says volumes about his entire campaign, IMHO. Compared to McCain's already stated intentions, does "better the devil you know" apply? I'm not sure, but it gives me pause.

    Now what?

    Good question. Speaking for myself I may, at times, be a single issue voter, but this isn't that kind of issue for me. I have bigger issues than this one with all three candidates. It's going to be a tough year!

    I no longer see much difference -- or usefulness -- in either party

    You'll get no argument from me there, but that's a topic for another day!

    General aviation, the theory goes, already pays a fair share

    The entire question of who pays their "fair share" falls into the same trap as any other tax: who gets to decide what consitutes fairness? In my view, we're nowhere near anything remotely "fair" now with any other taxes, so why would I assume that it will be any different with this one? There will be winners, and there will be losers. Nature of the game. Based on how these things usually turn out for me, I'd rather not play, given a choice.

    For me, another large issue with user fees is the waste that will go towards the huge, government-bloated bureaucracy that will inevitably have to be created to collect and (mis)manage them. As you know, I'm no big fan of the IRS, and I can't see this being in any way better or cheaper.

    And is there any guarantee that the collected fees will be used in furtherance of the needs of GA? Doubtful, indeed. It won't be long until those dollars are being treated just like the other trillions of "found" dollars our legislators blow through every year.

    Yeah, now that you mention it, it is kind of a hackle-raiser.

  2. To quote Lee Rogers and Melanie Morgan: "We are so screwed."

    WASS, my friend.