Subsidizing corporate travel

Let’s jump into the minefield of corporate executive travel.

When the big automakers needed a Washington bailout, they arrived in their corporate jets, to the scorn of the public and the politicians. The public, they reasoned, shouldn’t be subsidizing such excess.

“[When] corporate executives use the company aircraft for personal business, I think that rubs the public the wrong way,” Rep. James Oberstar said.

But the taxpayer was already subsidizing corporate travel through the Essential Air Service program, which is intended to provide air service to small communities. Alaska is the big winner in the 1980s-era legislation, which was only supposed to last for 10 years.

It doesn’t cost that much in the big scheme of things, $123 million this year.

Today, Oberstar announced a third commercial flight is being added to the Hibbing-Chisholm area, subsidized under the program.

The primary beneficiaries, according to Oberstar, will be mining executives.

One fallout from the program, however. The program from the government’s left hand kicks in a wave of new bureaucratic regulations from the government’s right hand. Once commercial air service comes to a smalltown, private pilots and the business who operate at the airports — the ones who mostly use and benefit smaller airports and their communities — are slapped with new security regulations.

A new Department of Homeland Security directive, which the agency refuses to make public, “puts undue burden on rural airports and general aviation personnel” and “stifles rural aviation, which is a lifeblood for many of these smaller communities,” one activist wrote.

In Minnesota, that applies to Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, International Falls, St. Cloud, Rochester, and Thief River Falls.

In rural Minnesota, the government gives, and the government taketh away.

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