With all of the flak general aviation is taking during the debt ceiling battle, it might be a good thing if President Obama Googled the World War II song, “Comin’ In On a Wing and A Prayer,” the tale of a plane struggling back to base after a bombing raid.
General aviation is certainly struggling under the war of words against a major American employer. Despite the inaccurate claims by my friends on the left that general aviation only serves millionaires and billionaires, these aircraft serve as essential business tools. Understanding that managers, sales teams and technical experts are often required to visit numerous offices in a short amount of time, and in regions of the United States that aren’t served by large airports, general aviation is often their only option. In fact, 90 percent of our country’s airports aren’t accessible by commercial aircraft.
General aviation employs more than 1.2 million workers, and annually contributes $150 billion to the U.S. economy. In 2010, general aviation delivered 1,334 planes valued at $7.9 billion, with well over half attributed to exports — a number that supports President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years.
General aviation has struggled during the recession, resulting in layoffs among the many high-skill, high-paying jobs in this industry. Many hard working manufacturers have been forced to find work elsewhere or seek unemployment benefits.
That is precisely why President Obama himself, along with Democratic members of Congress, included a provision in the stimulus bill to accelerate the depreciation schedules for general aviation aircraft.
Well, what the left hand giveth, the class warfare hand taketh away.
In a surprise attack on general aviation during several press conferences on how to achieve debt reduction, President Obama targeted tax breaks for “corporate jets” no less than six times. Likewise, budget negotiators are considering implementing onerous user fees on general aviation as a way to generate revenue, which would further cripple the industry.
Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said it best in a joint letter he sent to President Obama with other aviation manufacturer associations, “Words have consequences and, in this industry, a few misguided words can put at risk even the ever-so-modest recovery we have experienced. What this industry and its workforce requires is more time to recover, a chance to book more orders and the opportunity to recall more workers.”
The need to get serious about spending and our deficit is obvious, but it makes sense to only consider those provisions that would actually have a measurable impact on reducing our more than $14 trillion national debt. The Democrats proposal to change the depreciation schedules for corporate jets would only contribute $3 billion of revenue over 10 years. Considering that the United States borrows approximately $40 billion every 10 days, repealing this tax provision would close our national budget deficit for one hour. This is in addition to user fees, which could very well spell the end of the U.S. general aviation industry as we know it.
The general aviation industry has come through some rough times this past decade. We will persevere and do so again — “Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.” Our task would be a lot easier without so much class warfare flak from the White House.