Southwest Strands Thousands of Travelers After Taking $7.2B From Feds
January 2, 2023
Southwest Airlines stranded tens of thousands of passengers right after Christmas, canceling 5,400 flights in less than 48 hours, sending travelers’ luggage to their destinations while they remained stranded in airports across the country.
This is after the airline took $7.2 billion in federal subsidies and contracts since 2020, OpenTheBooks.com reported.
Southwest blamed the cancellations — at least 70% of its scheduled flights on Monday and at least 60% of its schedule on Tuesday – on its internal scheduling system crashing. A union for the airline’s flight attendants said the company knew it had outdated technology but hasn’t upgraded it.
Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 officials said they have been calling attention to the issue for years, trying to get the company to upgrade its technology. Southwest hasn’t followed though and crews were stranded, causing delays and cancellations, Fox 31 Denver reported.
Southwest received $7.2 billion from the federal government, some of which could have been used to upgrade their systems.
In September 2020, Southwest received $3.3 billion from the federal government for Covid-19 relief. In April 2021, Southwest received another $3.8 billion as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act and other subsidies, according to data on the federal spending transparency website.
Southwest received so much federal aid, the airline had a $116 million profit in the first quarter of 2021, the first airline to return to profitability after the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will look into whether the airline violated customer agreements and should be held accountable for the havoc is wreaked on one of the busiest travel times of the year.
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the agency said in a tweet. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
New York Lawmakers Silent on Crime, Migrants, Give Themselves 29% Raise
January 3, 2023
The New York State Senate and Assembly recently returned to Albany for a special session, not to rethink the “bail reform” that allows violent criminals to be released immediately after getting arrested, or to do something about the migrant crisis that is seeing thousands of illegal immigrants overwhelm New York City.
No, they ended their session then reconvened for a special session to give themselves a 29% raise, from $110,000 to $142,000, making them the highest paid state lawmakers in the country, The New York Post reported.
The Senate voted 32-23 in favor of the raise, and the Assembly later approved it 81-52, with opposition mostly from Republicans. With a veto-proof supermajority, however, it doesn't matter how Republicans nor Gov. Kathy Hochul feel about the raise.
Hochul initially tried to tie the proposed pay raise to lawmakers passing tougher bail rules for people charged with violent felonies, domestic offenses, and hate crimes. But she changed her tune once Sen. John Mannion (D-Syracuse) won reelection following a recount of his tight race with Republican Rebecca Shiroff.
Mannion’s return to another term makes the Democrats’ veto-proof supermajorities in both the Senate and Assembly even stronger, so Republicans have nowhere near any power in Albany. Why negotiate a pay raise?
The pay hike comes after lawmakers got a 38% raise in 2018 from $79,500. That was after they got another 38% raise in 1998 when their salaries rose from $57,500 a year.
One Democrat, an outgoing state senator who lost reelection, broke ranks to vote against the raises.
“Inflation has hit everyone, and legislators increasing their pay at a time when people are feeling the pain of economic pressure doesn’t feel right,” Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D-Nanuet) said, The Post reported. “If this were the right thing to do, we could have handled it during the regular session."
$575M in Omnibus Bill on Family Planning, Threats to Biodiversity
January 4, 2023
Hiding in the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that Congress passed a few days before Christmas is a $575 million fund for “family planning/reproductive health” in areas where “population growth threatens biodiversity or endangered species.”
It’s unclear how the funds would be used, like what type of birth control it is promoting, but it appears to support reducing population growth — to protect plants and animals, Fox News reported.
Several on the right were eager to criticize the use of taxpayer funds, including the congressman who found it, Rep. Dan Bishop, calling it “sinister.”
He said he and his staff were reading through all 4,155 pages of the omnibus bill and he tweeted “some of the most egregious provisions in the bill.”
“There's a chilling anti-human synergy between the Left's pet projects, from throttling energy production and raising the cost of living to outright killing people in the womb. It's all about making fewer, less vibrant, and wholly dependent people. It's truly evil,” Minnesota House Representative-elect Walter Hudson wrote.
“This is profoundly disturbing. Kudos to whoever found it,” Heritage Foundation analyst David Ditch tweeted.
“This is incredibly messed up. Sure, let's protect endangered species – but let's not do so at the expense of peoples' lives,” The Daily Signal editor-in-chief Katrina Trinko commented.
While the U.S. Department of State makes sure to say on its website that “The U.S. does not endorse population “stabilization” or “control,” its funding actions speak louder than words.
Throwback Thursday: Commerce Dept. Spends to Find a Good Surf Beach in Hawaii
January 5, 2023
In 1981, The U.S. Department of Commerce spent $28,600 — $93,669 in 2022 dollars — to decide how best to spend another $250,000 — or $818,787 — to find a good surfing beach in Honolulu.
That frivolous spending earned the federal agency a Golden Fleece of the Month award from Sen. William Proxmire.
Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave awards to wasteful and nonsensical spending, eventually handing out 168 Golden Fleece Awards between 1975 and 1988.
The federal agency gave the city and county of Honolulu the money to hire an outside consultant to “find a good surfing beach,” Proxmire said in 1981.
“Keep in mind, Hawaii is packed with expert surfers, most of whom already know the good surfing spots like the backs of their surfboards, and some of whom already work for the city and county of Honolulu and could do the job for free,” Proxmire said.
Two surfers had sued the Hawaiian Electric Company for disrupting a surfing beach by expanding a power plant. The utility company paid the city and county $250,000 to create another surfing beach, with the city and county asking for and receiving another $28,600 from the Dept. of Commerce to fund a study to find that new beach.
“Spending tax dollars to study where the surf’s up is certainly not on most people’s list of national priorities,” Proxmire said.
Quoting a Honolulu Councilman Rudy Pacarro, said, “I know the money is free but it’s taxpayers’ money. In Parks and Recreation, we have some people who have been surfing all their lives. And we’re going to pay a guy $28,600 to tell us where to put the damn place? That’s a lot of horse manure.”
Social Security Spent $250M on System It Doesn’t Use
January 6, 2023
When reviewing applications for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration consults an obsolete directory last updated in 1977, despite having spent $250 million on a newer, more relevant one.
The SSA relies on a 45-year-old job titles database, filled with jobs like “Document Preparer, Microfilming,” “Telephone Quotation Clerk” and “Nut Sorter” to deny thousands of claims a year, The Washington Post reported.
When disabled Americans apply for SSA disability benefits, they can have their applications denied if the agency finds that they can still work in a job title listed in their directory. But many of those jobs don’t exist anymore or exist in far fewer numbers as work has become more automated, The Post reported.
Jobs like sorting nuts, inspecting dowels, and processing eggs are done by machines, yet those jobs are still listed in the old directory and used to reject claims.
And that’s after the SSA spent $250 million since 2012 to build a new directory of 21st century jobs, with the cost expected to reach $300 million.
“Social Security is not using it, leaving antiquated vocational rules in place to determine whether disabled claimants win or lose,” The Post reported. The agency hasn’t explained why it doesn’t use the interactive system with new data collected by Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other obsolete job titles the agency uses to determine if disabled workers can find jobs include “Call-Out Operator,” “Film Touch-Up Inspector,” “Sack Repairer,” “Tube Operator,” and “Polisher, Eyeglass Frames.”
Kevin Liebkemann, a New Jersey attorney who trains disability attorneys and has written extensively on Social Security’s use of vocational data, told The Post, “It’s a great injustice to these people. We’re relying on job information from the 1970s to say thumbs-up or thumbs-down to people who desperately need benefits. It’s horrifying.”
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.