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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press USA Today Says Republicans Want Joe the Plumber to Subsidize Corporate Jet Gang

USA Today Says Republicans Want Joe the Plumber to Subsidize Corporate Jet Gang

Wednesday, 28 September 2011 04:48

Actually, USA Today didn't put it in quite these terms, and readers of its piece on raising airport fees probably missed it, but that is the clear implication of one of the statements in the piece. The piece told readers that:

"The security fees that passengers pay now cover about 43% of its costs of providing security in the air."

If this is accurate, then opponents of raising the fees believe that average taxpayers should subsidize the travel of frequent flyers and especially users of corporate jets, who pay very low fees.

Comments (6)Add Comment
Frequent Flyers Should Pay Only the Costs They Cause
written by izzatzo, September 28, 2011 7:42
Any economist knows that frequent flyers cause lower unit costs due to scale economies and therefore deserve to pay lower fees than average flyers.

Stupid liberals.
written by kharris, September 28, 2011 10:48
Sadly, we have an initial post which uses economic logic in a misleading way, and then we have izzatso, responding by using economic logic in a misleading way. This is not a unique occurrence, but also not encouraging.

If the benefit of airport security were limited to passengers and crew, then putting the whole cost of airport security on passengers would fit conventional economic thinking. However, the benefit of airport security extends to all of us, so spreading the cost over the tax base makes good sense. The question to answer is how much of the cost should be carried by fliers, how much by the rest of us.

As to izzatso's response, well..so much wrong. First, the issue at hand is whether frequent fliers or tax payers should pay. Any reduction in cost to the airline that may result from frequent flight is a private matter, and doesn't address the point that Baker made, at all. Baker differentiated between public and private cost burdens. Even if Baker's point had been entirely about private cost, izzatso's response would have been a misuse of economic reasoning. Whatever reduction in cost may be gained by attracting frequent fliers, those fliers ought to pay their marginal cost of security. There is no sense in claiming that some random share of cost, 43% in this case, is somehow greater than their share because their behavior lowers unit costs. They may still be paying well below the marginal cost of providing them, as frequent fliers, with security. Or their share of security once a subsidy is provided. Izzatso's response was just nonsense dressed up as economics. Stupid poser.
Don't Fly and Then We Don't Have to Worry About Planes Crashing Into Buildings
written by Dean, September 28, 2011 8:53
Sorry KHarris,

all the risks from flying are due to the people flying. The fact that flying without property security may jeopardize non-flyers is not an argument to make the non-flyers pay for the security -- it's an argument for the corporate jet crew to pay the cost of endangering the whole country.
written by kharris, September 29, 2011 9:03
Dean, all you have done is restate your initial position, and repeated you initial error. The benefits from flying are not necessarily all captured by those doing the flying. If there are benefits to society from commercial flight, then society needs to cover some of the risks. By mis-stating the issue, you have avoided having to consider externalities. If you are simply declaring that in the world according to Dean, externalities don't count or that risks are all that matter, that's not much of an argument.

Now, typically, narrow interests will identify all the positive externalities associated with their own activities (Jobs! Growth! Virtuous Endeavor!), and ignore all the negative externalities, so we can really rely on their accounting. But we can't honestly simply dispose of the accounting with a hand-wave, either.
written by kharris, September 29, 2011 9:06
Should have written "can't really rely on their accounting."
Having Airlines Cover Their Externalities Is Not Handwaving
written by Dean, September 30, 2011 9:22

think it through, there are benefits for every mode of transportation that the users should recognize. They should also have to recognize the costs. If, by virtue of flying, they are endangering the rest of the population, then the cost of this endangerment should be included in the cost of the ticket. If that means that they don't fly, then that is the ideal economic outcome.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.