September 29th, 2011


more thoughts on Obama's anti-aviation rhetoric

So last week I talked about how I was tired of Obama criticizing companies that own "corporate jets" because it's hurting my industry.

To be clear, I'm frustrated about the rhetoric here. I mean yes the tax increase is unfortunate too, but I know he's having to find a lot of places to increase revenue so I'll go with it. But why kick us while we're down? Over and over again, he singles out companies that use airplanes as being the ultimate fat cats with cash to spare, as if the plane is a luxury. The tax increase he's planning here is less than 1% of what he needs to fund his jobs plan, but "companies with jets" seem to make it in his top 3 targets in every speech. You'd think he was funding the whole thing by penalizing them.

It made me think he's got something against us, and I've done some thinking about it, and realized a few things:

First, it's true he doesn't have a whole lot of incentive to like Kansas, which is home to three major aircraft companies. We're a republican state. I'm not proud of that, I disagree with our leaders on almost every issue, except for this one about how wrong it is to villainize jet ownership.

Second, I think the guy might just have "urbanism". He's from Chicago, lives in DC, he sees people flying in and out of busy airports all the time. Maybe he doesn't understand that here in the middle of the country ("flyover country", right?) we're not so well served.

The National Business Aviation Association has a good campaign where they've been arguing the business case for company-owned airplanes, and I noticed a running theme to the stories:

  • Union Pacific Railroad maintains a "go team" of people who can respond to an emergency situation, whether it's safety or hazardous waste, no matter how far into the middle of nowhere a train derails.
  • Modular Devices builds & services mobile equipment so that heart patients in small communities can get procedures like cardiac catheterization at their local hospitals.
  • Caterpillar and John Deere and lots of other agriculture-based companies own business jets because their customers are everywhere and often unreachable by commercial service.
  • Dozens of businesses with small aircraft banded together to deliver water to rural Haiti during the cholera epidemic, in remote areas where runways weren't long enough for big freighter planes and people were suffering from a disease that kills in as little as 48 hours.

I realize that everyone wants to look for a bad guy to blame their problems on, but it's not productive here. Telling a Salina business that their business jet is a luxury is like telling a New York business that their thousands-per-month office space is a luxury. Where you are and who your customers are change what you need to spend money on, plain and simple.

Being critical of companies that fly may look like a solution to the "rich get richer" problem, but it's more likely a failure to relate to people who live in a smaller town than you.