Much has been made of President Barack Obama’s repeated demonizing of corporate jets and the people who fly on them in his June 29th press conference.
While pundits and politicians haggle over whether alterations in the depreciation schedule of corporate jets will actually have an impact on the deficit, those in the general aviation trenches are furious.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPO) President Craig Fuller told The Daily Caller that Obama’s comments have cast a pall over the industry, causing many who were considering buying a plane to back away from making a purchase.
“The industry has suffered terribly in the last two and a half years and it has just started to recover. Most of the signs were starting to look good,” said Fuller. “We are so angry as an industry and we have all come together to try to bring a more fair and balanced description to the debate.”
In response to Obama’s press conference, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) issued a letter to the president. The two organizations challenged the administration’s rhetoric and recalled a similar instance in which 20,000 IAM workers were laid off as a result of “ill-informed criticism of corporate jets and business aviation” and the 2008 downturn.
“Words have consequences and, in this industry, a few misguided words can put at risk even the ever-so-modest recovery we have experienced,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “What this industry and its workforce requires is more time to recover, a chance to book more orders and the opportunity to recall more workers.”
The president himself saw a benefit in providing tax breaks for corporate jets just in the past couple of years, signing two pieces of legislation that contained such provisions: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Small Business Lending Fund Act.
Indeed, one of of the greatest perks of being president is flying in the most private jet of all, Air Force One. According to Fuller, Obama has flown Air Force One more than any other president in history.
Nevertheless, the industry has felt Obama’s wrath.
James K. Coyne, the president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), was also horrified by the president’s comments. Speaking on behalf of his group’s 2,000 member companies, Coyne lampooned the president’s assertions and highlighted the fact that just a day prior Obama visited an American aircraft manufacturing plant to promote job growth.
“[I]t is perplexing why the president continues to bash an industry that is responsible for thousands of manufacturing, maintenance and service jobs,” Coyne said.”The president’s comments before a national audience could weaken consumer confidence in general aviation utilization at a time when economic indicators are demonstrating that the community is finally starting to recover from the recession.”
General Aviation Manufacturers Association reports the industry provides an estimated 1.2 million jobs and pumps more than $150 billion into the U.S. economy each year.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, co-founder of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, has taken the industry’s job concerns to heart, criticizing the president’s failure to realize the job-creating potential of a thriving aviation industry.
“It may be good politics at the White House to demonize the general aviation industry, but it is unwise,” said Johanns. “At a time when we should be doing everything possible to encourage job growth, the president is engaging in class warfare … This administration has purported to prioritize the creation of new jobs, but the president’s shortsighted comments yesterday have the potential to cause a chilling effect on the business of more than a million jobs that depend on the general aviation industry.”
According to Fuller, Obama is only focused on private jets for political reasons.
“There are only 15,000 private jets in America. Even if they tax them all at $10 million a piece – of course his proposal does not come close – it wouldn’t make a dent in the deficit. But he is on a political rant and we are just amazed by it all.”