Remember when Congress erupted in outrage over the arrival in Washington DC of the CEOs of the three major American automakers in private jets?  The bumbling public relations of the Big Three gave elected officials an opportunity to indulge in populist spleen-venting at rich fat cats and their greed.  Public pressure pushed the automakers to dump their private fleets of corporate jets and focus belt-tightening in the executive suites as well as on the manufacturing floor.

Who knew that Congress merely wanted to undercut price on their own purchase of private jets?

Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Normally, that would be considered an earmark.  However, since Appropriations merely expanded a line item instead of creating one, it didn’t require the member to identify him/herself.  Instead, the jet-setter will remain anonymous — and Congress as a whole can take the blame for passing it.

How about it, America?  Does this Congress need three more private jets, or even one?  Should they not fly commercial like the rest of us?  Considering the massive deficits this administration and the Democrats in Congress now run — much worse than anything remotely imagined at GM, Chrysler, or Ford — should they not hold themselves to the standard they dramatically demanded from the CEOs of the automakers last November?