Stop the jet bashing

07/10/2011 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:04 AM

Any president has limited power to create jobs. The market is in charge, as it should be. But there is one sure thing President Obama could do to help a key American industry recover: Stop picking on corporate jets.

Among the products that Wichita’s aviation workforce specializes in building for a global marketplace, corporate jets make an easy target for a president who campaigned on raising taxes on the wealthy. Obama did some jet bashing in his very first address to Congress in 2009.

But he’s had plenty of time and opportunity to be schooled on the truth about general aviation, including its $1.2 billion payroll and $150 billion economic impact. His transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, visited Wichita in March, making the connection between the Air Capital of the World and Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years.

Yet in a recent news conference Obama mentioned corporate jets and their owners six times, calling for an end to special tax breaks. The insult against the industry was so petty and potentially damaging that it brought the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Machinists union together on a protest letter.

As Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, wrote in a letter to House leaders last week, “business jets allow individuals to accomplish their work more efficiently and effectively.” Increasing the tax burden for business expenses would not only harm the general aviation industry “but the broader U.S. economy as well,” Pompeo wrote.

Real people would be hurt, rather than the jet-setters Obama criticizes. Obama’s rhetoric also ignores the facts. Eliminating the bonus depreciation of corporate jets, which had been part of Obama’s stimulus package, would raise perhaps $3 billion in tax revenue over a decade — less than a drop in the bucket of a $14.34 trillion national debt.

New York University law professor Richard A. Epstein is among those who’ve tried to make such points in recent days, criticizing the “cheap political populism” and “primitive economics” of the president’s rhetoric.

Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture and others also are concerned about the administration’s plan to curtail businesses’ right to privacy regarding where and how they use their aircraft.

On Friday the nation learned that a pitiful 18,000 jobs were created in June, nudging the unemployment rate up to 9.2 percent and putting more pressure on congressional debt-limit negotiations.

In response, Obama spoke of “getting back to a place where businesses consistently grow and are hiring, where new jobs and new opportunity are within reach, where middle-class families once again know the security and peace of mind they’ve felt slipping away for years now.”

Wichita long has been such a place, in large part because it’s also a place that excels in building airplanes. It would like to get back to building more. If Obama doesn’t care to accept the multiple invitations to visit Wichita, the least he can do is get out of its way.

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