Is This The End of the American Century?

This site features updates, analysis, discussion and comments related to the theme of my book published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008 (hardbound) and 2009 (paperbound).

The Book

The End of the American Century documents the interrelated dimensions of American social, economic, political and international decline, marking the end of a period of economic affluence and world dominance that began with World War II. The war on terror and the Iraq War exacerbated American domestic weakness and malaise, and its image and stature in the world community. Dynamic economic and political powers like China and the European Union are steadily challenging and eroding US global influence. This global shift will require substantial adjustments for U.S. citizens and leaders alike.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Indiana Governor Has "No Idea" of Costs of Commercial Flights

Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels, using a $1000 per hour state aircraft for a trip to Washington, appeared clueless when a reporter asked him if it might be cheaper to fly commercial and stay an extra night in DC.

Last weekend, Daniels was flying to Washington for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association when the plane developed a crack in one of the windows, forcing it to land in Columbus. He flew on from there on a commercial flight.

The state-owned plane, a King Air prop, costs $791 per hour for fuel plus $184 in maintenance costs for each hour of flying. The flight from Indianapolis to Washington takes about two hours.

According to the Indianapolis Star, when he was asked why he didn't fly commercial in the first place, Daniels said there was no commercial flight that would have gotten him to Washington on time. "I would've had to come the night before and buy a hotel room and I don't know what else." When asked whether it still wouldn't have been cheaper to fly commercial, even if it meant another night in a hotel, Daniels said "I have no idea."

This seems a peculiar response from the former director of the national budget, and a man who President Bush referred to as "The Blade" for his acumen at budget cutting. But even then, Daniels was not so good at keeping spending under control. During his tenure as director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2003, the federal budget flipped from a $236 billion surplus to a $400 billion deficit.

So I took the liberty of checking up on prices for the gov. The Governors Association was meeting at the J.W. Marriott hotel in DC. A king size bed on a weekend night costs about $200--though almost certainly the governors attending the conference received a reduced convention rate. A commercial roundtrip flight from Indy to DC--non-stop and at least as fast as flying a smaller turboprop--also runs about $200.

So to fly commercial and stay an extra night would have been roughly $400. To fly the 9-seat King Air, without having to "buy a hotel room and I don't know what else" costs about 2k each way, for a total of $4000. Ten times as much, Mr. Governor.

Maybe this is trivial, but Daniels' cavalier dismissal of the question on costs betrays an arrogance and profligacy that is unbecoming of a public servant. Some of our Congressional representatives have grilled the bailout CEOs about their use of corporate jets. Surely our elected representatives should be held to at least the same standards, particularly in this time of deficits, belt-tightening, and sacrifice.

(Scott Adam's 2/25 "Dilbert" strip.

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