'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
- Abraham Lincoln -

Monday, September 26, 2011

How Gov't Justifies Itself

It hires consultants.  At great expense.  To come up with totally ridiculous justifications for its spending habits.

Case in point:
Southwest Virginia airports land big bucks
By Jeff Sturgeon, Roanoke Times

Air travel, air cargo and associated aviation activities such as flight instruction are busy exchange points for money in this part of Southwest Virginia, contributing more than $230 million to the state's economy, a new report says.

Officials at the Virginia Department of Aviation were troubled last year by a sense that people did not understand the economic benefits of airports. They hired consultants to count all the dollars that change hands as a result of the state's 66 aviation facilities.

The total was $28.8 billion in 2010, according to the study released in August.

Three Southwest Virginia airports - those in Roanoke, Blacksburg and Dublin - are churning out $231.5 million in economic activity just by themselves, the report said.

To get the big picture, consultants ranged outside the borders of the aviation field, counting not only plane tickets and jet fuel, but also visitor spending on hotels and entertainment if those visitors arrived by plane. As a result, they counted some of the same dollars, say, that are tallied in the annual accounting of tourism spending. Still, the report captures aviation's significant economic footprint.

Virginia Tech-Montgomery Executive Airport in Blacksburg, where 42 aircraft are based and 14,000 aircraft landed and took off last year, is described as a hotbed of monetary activity.

The single-runway airport itself employs nine people, but its presence supports a total of 70 jobs that pay nearly $2 million. All told, the public airport contributes $9.4 million statewide, the study said. [link]
I want to use the word fabulous at this point, to describe this story.  Fabulous!  But not in its most often thought of sense.  But fabulous as in "barely credible" and "lacking factual basis or historical validity."

This is such bullshit on its face that I'll not even take the time to hunt up the details and destroy them with an injection of reality.  I'll simply ask that readers turn to my assessment of the last government-funded study that attempted to do the same thing - justify tax dollar expenditures with skewed historical data - see "'Tourism' Ain't What It Used To Be" - and let the subterfuge that goes into such studies speak for itself.

I'll simply ask a question, leaving the hysterical numbers aside:  Since the three airports studied - in Roanoke, Dublin, and Blacksburg - are every bit of 35 miles apart, each located conveniently off of Interstate 81, which means a person wanting to hop a flight out of any one of the three would be little more than half an hour from each, what would the detrimental effect be on that tremendous economic activity if two of the three airports were closed and the redundancy quashed, saving the Virginia taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars each year?

Let me answer my own question: Squat.

Nothing would change.  Because we have three airports in an area that only calls for one.

Yet there they are.

And there they'll stay.

As long as (a) local and state politicians continue to come up with taxpayers' hard-earned income to support them, and (b) as long as fabulous studies are conjured that justify their existence.

- - -

* Why did the study stop there?  Why wasn't the airport in Bluefield mentioned?   And the one in Tazewell?  And in Hillsville?  And Rural Retreat?  And Abingdon?  And Martinsville?  And Wise?  And across the border in Johnson City?  How many billions of dollars are those eight taxpayer-supported airports bringing in, one wonders.

**  Another couple of questions: Regarding the statement that "Virginia Tech-Montgomery Executive Airport in Blacksburg, where 42 aircraft are based and 14,000 aircraft landed and took off last year ...," how many of those 14,000 takeoffs involved planes with a seating capacity of four or less?  Most?  And how many of those involved flight instruction?  Half?  More than half?  Get us to $9.4 million with that.