The article in the Aug. 28 Review-Journal about the" Essential" Air Service subsidies and the Ely airport illustrates, in my opinion, a microcosm of the national debt and budget debate.
To summarize: Passengers on Great Lakes Airlines, flying in and out of Ely, pay between $69 and $149 per one-way flight. The government, meaning me and you as taxpayers, pays the remainder of the actual cost for the flights. This subsidy is somewhere between $1,170 and $3,700, depending on whom you listen to. And with government accounting and efficiency, which number do you think is closer to the truth?
But let's go with the $1,170 number. Why are taxpayers being forced to pay for this?
In America, we all have choices. We get to choose where we live, what schools we want to go to, what career fields to pursue and, yes, what form of travel we want to take. Choices have consequences. Any reasonable person should understand that if you choose to live in a remote rural community, your travel options --- as well as many others options --- are limited. If you choose to live there, you deal with those limitations.
Apparently the residents of Ely are exempt from this truism for some reason. Should taxpayers subsidize a large shopping mall that the community can't support so that they have more shopping options?
Millions of Americans around the country can't afford to fly, even on discount airlines from major hubs. They don't ask for taxpayer subsidies, they take the bus, train or drive their car. My brother used to live in Boise. The cost of the round-trip airline ticket was more than I wanted to pay, so I drove 12 hours each way whenever I wanted to visit him. If you've ever made that drive, it stinks. But it was my choice.
The people in Ely should have the choice to pay for the full cost of their air travel or find some other means to get where they want to go. They say there is no bus service to Ely. Is that any surprise? What bus service could compete with a $69 fare? Perhaps if the competition for travelers was on a level playing field, bus lines and one-way rental agencies could compete in Ely as well.
The article says eliminating the program would cut only $16.5 million from the federal budget annually. That sum seems minuscule compared to our $15 trillion debt. But as any normal American who is trying to cut expenses knows, you cut every penny possible because they all add up.
Now, I'm not at all surprised that Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley want to save this program. Those two, in particular, and Democrats in general, think the American taxpayers are a bottomless pit of money that they can spend to buy votes. But I am particularly upset that Rep. Joe Heck and Sen. Dean Heller also support keeping these subsidies. Rep. Heck must not fully realize why voters kicked Dina "Your money is our money" Titus to the curb. And Dean Heller, who was appointed, must not understand that voters can do the same to him.
Folks we simply cannot continue to borrow 40 cents on every dollar the government spends. Democrats and Republicans alike need to realize that tough choices to cut spending must be made and made quickly. The riots and civil unrest we have witnessed in Greece, France and England are the result of those governments not making the hard choices while there is still time. And if you think that can't happen here, you must not be paying attention to the violent flash mobs that are springing up around the country, including here in Las Vegas.
For those of you thinking we should just raise taxes on "the rich" to pay for these types of wasteful programs, get a clue. Those "rich" people will make the hard choice, they'll have to decide which employees to let go so they can afford to pay the taxes or which prices to raise. How many poor people do you know who are hiring new employees right now?
I'm sure Tony Wright, who was quoted in the article and lives in Ely while working as an executive for Barrick Gold in the Dominican Republic, is not earning minimum wage and can probably afford to pay the full cost of flying from Ely to Las Vegas. If he cannot, he can choose to drive or walk or levitate. In any case, it should not be a taxpayer problem. Get rid of the Essential Air Service program in Ely and everywhere else.
Rick Liedtke writes from Henderson.