LaHood: Sequester will disrupt air travel even though we get more money for fewer flights now

We picked on CNN’s Candy Crowley last week, so it’s only fair to highlight her effort here in demolishing Ray LaHood in his attempt to push the Nightmare on Sequester Street hysteria, FAA edition. Air travel will go haywire if the sequester cuts take place, LaHood warns, but Crowley notes that (a) even with the sequester, the FAA will have more money in this year’s budget than last year’s, (b) the cuts bring the FAA back to their 2008 funding level in real dollars, and (c) the level of domestic flights has dropped by 27% since 9/11.  So why the hysteria over the sequester? (via Eliana Johnson at The Corner)

Pressed by Crowley, who pointed out that, while domestic flights are down 27 percent from pre-9/11 levels, the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget has increased, LaHood responded, “Budgets go up and down.” …

LaHood placed the blame for the current state of affairs squarely on the shoulders of the Republicans. “I’m a Republican…they need to come to the table with a proposal, which frankly they haven’t done,” he said, “while the president has, the Republicans haven’t.” In fact, Congress in May passed a bill that would replace sequester’s cuts to defense with cuts to domestic discretionary spending programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. Asked for his response to LaHood’s remarks, Senator John McCain, who appeared on the show after him, said, “Shame on Ray LaHood.”

The hysteria strategy has Democrats worrying as the budget deadline approaches.  What happens when the end of the world arrives — and it just keeps chugging on like before?

Over the past week, President Obama has painted a picture of impending disaster, warning of travel delays, laid-off firefighters and pre-schoolers tossed out of Head Start. Conservatives accuse Obama of exaggerating the impact, and some White House allies worry the slow-moving sequester may fail to live up to the hype.

“The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2. The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2,” said Emily Holubowich, a Washington health-care lobbyist who leads a coalition of 3,000 nonprofit groups fighting the cuts. “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens. And Republicans say: See, that wasn’t so bad.”

In the long partisan conflict over government spending, the sequester is where the rubber meets the road. Obama is betting Americans will be outraged by the abrupt and substantial cuts to a wide range of government services, from law enforcement to food safety to public schools. And he is hoping they will rise up to demand what he calls a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that replaces some cuts with higher taxes.

But if voters react with a shrug, congressional Republicans will have won a major victory in their campaign to shrink the size of government. Instead of cancelling the sequester, the GOP will likely push for more.

That’s the problem with crying, “Wolf!” When the deadline passes and has all the impressiveness of Comet Kahoutek, it’s going to be even more difficult to keep arguing that another round of budget cuts will be The End Of The World As We Know It.