The Plane Truth

Remember when members of Congress were ready to declare class war against some of the nation’s top executives for the high crime of using a private jet? The CEOs of the nation’s auto companies became poster boys for supposed private-sector indifference to public sentiment and good taste last year when they flew company jets from Michigan to Washington, D.C., for a Congressional hearing.

Oh, the politicians on Capitol Hill screamed and hollered! High-flying executives were turned into national jokes on late-night television; the very people who were hailed as economic heroes back in the good old days of Dow 14,000 and ever-increasing 401(k) accounts were now forced to deliver groveling apologies.

All because busy, time-challenged executives had the audacity to fly on private jets rather than deal with the hassles of commercial aviation.

Apparently, the good people who draw their paychecks and health benefits from the public treasury believe that the American public has the attention span of a flea. Guess who’s flying first class now? That’s right—the very people who condemned the whole idea of private jets just a few months ago.

The House of Representatives have cooked up a plan to spend more than $500 million on new government jets so members of Congress can travel in ease and comfort during their late-summer sojourns to exotic foreign locations—all in the name of the public’s business, of course. The plan grew out of a White House proposal to purchase four jets for $220 million. House leaders upped the ante to eight Gulfstream and Boeing planes for $550 million.

Here’s a better idea: If the House really needs new planes to transport members around the globe, there’s a good market in used Gulfstreams. Why not save a few dollars by buying a nice second-hand model from some bedraggled corporation whose executives dare not use private planes anymore? If the new planes are to be used for the military, that’s another story. But if their primary users will be politicians, well, they ought to become familiar with the phrase “pre-owned.”

Here’s another phrase they ought to memorize: “We’re sorry.” That sentiment should be directed at the nation’s CEOs, who suffered the slings and arrows of these hypocrites without complaint.

The Plane Truth