By Bradley Harrington
“Subsidies are a shell game, not a net addition to national wealth.” — Thomas Sowell, “Too much ‘education’?”, 2000 —
I’ve mentioned before that government interference in the free functioning of the marketplace — price controls, licensing schemes, subsidies, fiat-based “federal reserve note” inflation, centralized interest-rate manipulations, you name it — constitute distortive and dislocative action, being based in the use of force.
I’m also on record as saying that such interventions not only qualify as non-market activity in and of themselves, they can’t help but breed other, further, distortions and dislocations as well. Like the outwardly-rippling waves on a pond after throwing a rock into its center, the initial acts of coercion serve as the base for a whole host of economic effects that would not have occurred in the absence of the intervention.
What I haven’t said before is that such interventions have ideological as well as economic impacts — and the best example of both, as it happens, is none other than our own Cheyenne Regional Airport:
■ Back in May our “airline,” Great Lakes Aviation, was five months behind on its lease payments to the airport, a debt of nearly $80,000.
Well, things have grown a bit since; as of last month, “Great Lakes owes the Cheyenne Regional Airport approximately $124,000 in back lease payments for overall operations.” (“Great Lakes Aviation president Howell leaves post,” WTE, June 13.)
And, since those lease payments add up to somewhere around $15,000 monthly, you can boost that figure up to $139,000, as it’s now July. And, next week, when it becomes August, you can lift that ceiling again to $154,000.
When will this debt be paid? “We continue to work with Great Lakes’ executive staff on resolving this unpaid debt,” said Jim Schell, Deputy Director of Aviation at Cheyenne Regional Airport.
■ Given such abysmal operations by our carrier — operations have been pared back to “one day a week” (“Cheyenne Regional Airport Board launches efforts to add second carrier,” WTE, July 16) — it’s no wonder that even our airport board is getting fed up and casting about for an alternative:
“The Cheyenne Regional Airport Board recently approved two contracts to help land a second passenger air carrier here … On Thursday [July 13], the airport board unanimously approved spending nearly $100,000 on the contracts.”
Sounds good, right? Sure, until you look at just what it is these “studies” intend on accomplishing: “Air service data analysis”; the development of a “passenger retention study”; and the provision of “community messaging and support for air service development.”
■ What’s the one thing all of these people are missing, the flaw in the structure that’s guaranteed to blow all their dollars and plans sky-high? The fact that we DON’T HAVE a passenger list!
“The number of Great Lakes passengers has dropped precipitously during the past few years,” the story tells us. Why? Because we have a major international airport, Denver’s DIA, only 100 miles away, easily reachable on a two-hour drive or a $50 Green Ride bus ticket. What fool would pay Great Lakes over $200 to be shuttled there instead?
■ Despite the fact that we have no passengers to support a viable Cheyenne air carrier, however, we keep thinking we can create some kind of demand out of thin air — this time by building a second terminal we don’t need any more than we needed the first:
“The new facility will cost about $10.5 million and is part of an overall improvement project estimated to cost $17 million. In addition to a terminal, the project includes building a new airport apron and parking lot.” (“Future is unclear for Cheyenne Regional Airport passenger terminal,” WTE, May 17.)
■ What’s the problem with this plan? Hello, we DON’T HAVE any passengers, and neither a new terminal nor all the studies in the world are going to change the economic dynamics of that fact by one measly degree.
So, economically, we see “a whole host of effects” taking place as a consequence of Great Lakes Aviation subsidies (about $50 million a year), impacts such as:
Skyrocketing debt; taxpayer monies blown on worthless studies; more blown on worthless terminals that meet no known demand; and even more blown on worthless airport official salaries, whatever they might be, to pay for the people’s “work” who have dreamed up all this other non-market nonsense.
Ideologically, however, we are faring far worse, as we are now looking to government as the solution when the reality is that it’s the problem. We have now abandoned our heritage of self-reliance and independence in favor of bureaucratic edict and control.
And, as long as we maintain that irrational mindset, further distortions and dislocations are guaranteed as a matter of course. How much MORE money do you feel like flushing down the toilet? Give government the chance and it’ll take everything you have.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on July 30, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
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