Obama administration scare-mongering on airplane safety

posted at 10:24 am on July 8, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

As anyone who knows me can attest, I dislike flying intensely.  I do it, though, for two reasons.  One, there just isn’t any other way to travel practically in today’s business environment.  Taking three days to get somewhere on a train may feel nostalgic, but it’s a colossal waste of time, and it usually winds up costing more than a flight anyway.

Secondly, despite my white knuckles and perspiration-soaked shirt during the flight, I understand intellectually that flying is a remarkably safe mode of transportation.  There is a difference between fear and senselessness, a distinction apparently lost on the Obama administration, as David Harsanyi explains:

[W]hen LaHood berated me for suggesting that flying in a commercial airplane was a safe mode of transportation, I knew he was perfect for a Cabinet position.

In his best Illinois tough-guy form, LaHood was in the middle of grandstanding about the need for new regulations covering airlines and pilots, who, despite those imposing uniforms, according to LaHood, display the accountability of a pro athlete. And if airlines did not voluntarily hand over this personal information, Ray LaHood would make them do it.

When I asked LaHood if there was an outbreak of gruesome airline calamities that had somehow escaped my attention, he suggested I ask the relatives of those who died in a recent commuter jet accident about safety. Americans, he declared, were demanding more regulation. And he ended with a sarcastic quip, “I’m happy you feel safe.”

Oh, I do. Why wouldn’t I? There wasn’t a single U.S. airline passenger death due to an accident in 2007 and 2008, years in which commercial airliners carried 1.5 billion passengers. If you are a skateboarder, skier, pedestrian or train rider, your chances of dying are far higher.

This is the equivalent of Joe Biden getting on national television and telling people to stay off public transportation because they are incubators of disease.  We scoffed at Biden, and laughed with derision when Robert Gibbs attempted to claim that Biden didn’t mean what he’d said.  LaHood confirms that the Obama White House has become the Chicken Little Administration — the sky is always falling, in this case literally.

It goes beyond attempting to expand the federal grasp of personal information to American pilots, but let’s stay with that a moment.  As Harsanyi points out, each year over 700 cyclists die on the highway, a number far greater than in US airline-industry accidents in almost any year.  Auto accidents account for at least sixty times that number each year.  The airline industry flew over a billion passengers in 2007-8 and had zero fatalities.  That’s impressive, and demonstrates the incredible safety record of the industry, for which we can in large part thank the highly skilled, dedicated, professional men and women flying the aircraft that carry us from city to city — even when some of us are pushing our fingerprints permanently into the armrests.

To the larger point, LaHood should be defending this industry instead of screeching about falling skies and airplanes.  Why is he fomenting panic?  Because that’s what this administration does.  If a crisis doesn’t exist, they don’t have an entree to overhaul entire industries into state-controlled junior bureaucracies, complete with patronage jobs and political chits to recover.  The Obama administration has to be in constant Chicken Little mode in order to frighten us into acquiescing to their ideas of change.


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