Government Bureaucrats Are Trying To Come Between You And Unsafe Air Travel

According to the conservative narrative about civil servants, they’re “unelected, unaccountable,” “faceless bureaucrats” that will “tell[] us which light bulbs to buy,” “ration health care,” take “charge of the thermostats,” and, of course, “pull the plug on grandma.” The “career Washington” bureaucrats are also lazy, underworked, and overpaid. They’re always trying to “come between” things, especially “you and your doctor,” and are generally bad for “liberty” and one of the main obstacles to job creation.

Completely ignored in this narrative is that civil servants perform vital functions to keeping a modern society functioning, as made evident by the latest House-created government shutdown crisis.

The FAA is partially shut down right now because House Republicans are insisting on including an anti-union provision in the agency’s re-authorization bill. But air travel continues, and while air traffic controllers are exempt from the shutdown, safety inspectors are not. In order to keep the system functioning, these faceless bureaucrats in the FAA are continuing to work, without pay, and are even paying for their official expenses out of their own pockets:

Those inspectors are the primary individuals responsible for ensuring that commercial airports comply with federal regulations. They also support runway safety action teams, oversee construction safety plans, investigate runway incursions and ensure that corrective action is taken on safety discrepancies.

“The reason they are out on the job is because of the risk to operational safety or life and property,” [F.A.A. administrator Randy] Babbitt said. “We can neither pay them nor can we compensate them for expenses. We are depending and living on their professionalism at this point.”

It is unclear how long the inspectors can continue to pay the bills for their own travel and hotel expenses. Typically, each of the roughly 40 regional inspectors travels to up to five airports in each two-week period, F.A.A. officials said.

The government allocates a minimum of $76 per night for lodging and another $46 per day for food an incidental expenses to employees — up to $295and $71, respectively, for more expensive places like New York City — which adds up quickly when inspectors are asked to travel so frequently. At even the minimum per diem rate, that’s $610 in travel expenses on employees’ credit cards every two weeks — not including airfare. Aviation Safety Inspectors are paid between $70,000 to $92,000 a year, according to job listings on USA Jobs.

And it’s unclear how long it will be before they’re reimbursed, since the GOP-controlled House recessed yesterday without solving the issue and is now heading home enjoying the air travel system kept safe by these inspectors they refuse to pay.