According to the proposed sequester, the FAA is going to face approximately $1 billion in cuts. This could mean a couple of thousand air-traffic controllers could be laid off. Anybody who doesn’t think this will materially affect the way all these people — like, say, me — get their business done hasn’t flown any time in the past 20 years, and is more than welcome to spend eight days in a Chipotle while trying to get from Charlotte to Tucson. There was, I thought, absolutely no way that the people who own both large corporations and the politicians that serve them would allow something like this to happen. Sure, I reasoned, those folks could live very well without, say, the FDA or OSHA. (The rest of us couldn’t, but that’s the way it goes.) But they couldn’t live with things like air travel grinding to a halt.
However, as the government has lurched toward the March 1 deadline, it became clear that I had misapprehended what was really going on. For almost 40 years, both deliberately and by accident, the conservative movement had run against their fanciful notions of what a command economy was, but against the notion of a mixed economy at all. They fashioned a philosophy in which private money and public money were best left apart from each other. They created a view of the how the country operates that was laissez faire in ridiculous extreme. They have convinced themselves that any mixing of public and private money is invariably destructive to the latter to the benefit of the former. (That this rarely in their minds applied to military spending is beside the point for the moment, and will continue to be, because I still believe that there is absolutely no way the defense-related sequester cuts happen.) What you are seeing now is the blank wall at the end of the ideological blind alley down which the conservative movement has frolicked since the day Ronald Reagan told us that government really was the problem.
Without the involvement of government, the planes don’t fly. Or, at best, they fly into each other, which is bad for business. Without the involvement of government, the trucks have no highways on which to roll. Break faith in the covenant of a mixed economy and you wind up with no economy at all. If the corporate class in this country still took pride in, you know, making stuff, instead of banking profits by shuffling paper around on Wall Street, it would crack the whip in 10 minutes on this foolishness. Alas, even that check-and-balance exercise is gone now. I really thought that mutual self-interest would win the day.