OTHER VOICES

Cut budget at Pentagon

Posted April 21, 2011, at 9:22 p.m.

In their budget-cutting zeal, Republicans are demanding harsh sacrifices from the country’s most vulnerable citizens. At the same, they are determined to leave one of the biggest areas of wasteful government spending untouched: the Pentagon budget.

The budget plan they pushed through the House this month would spend $7.5 trillion on the military over the next dozen years. And that does not include the cost of actual war-fighting. The country cannot afford to spend that much, and it doesn’t need to.

The $7.5 trillion was President Barack Obama’s projection, which he has since lowered to $7.1 trillion. Saving $400 billion is better but still not enough, especially since it can be achieved merely by holding annual nonwar-related spending at its current swollen level, adjusted for inflation.

National security is a fundamental responsibility of government. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon has spent without limits and in some cases without sense. Annual budgets, adjusted for inflation, have grown by 50 percent in the past decade. And that is apart from the more than $1 trillion spent on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House and Congress must impose some rationality on this process.

The New York Times  (April 19)

• • •

Baggage fee ban

Airline passengers would get their baggage fees refunded when their luggage is lost or delayed, if the Department of Transportation implements a proposed rule change, and that’s reasonable.

A lost bag costs travelers time and often money — they might have to buy clothing and other items. And it’s hard to see how an airline can justify keeping money for bags it fails to deliver on time.

Not surprisingly, airlines are objecting. They say that being forced to pay refunds on lost or delayed bags will result in increased costs that will be passed on to all passengers. About 2 million bags didn’t arrive on the same flight as their owners last year.

But airlines are no doubt more concerned about keeping the $3.3 billion in baggage fees collected every year. Surely they ought to be expected to provide something in exchange for that money.

Given the proliferation of fees that airlines have been imposing, it wouldn’t be surprising if they tried to charge people another fee when their luggage goes astray — call it a baggage storage fee. Or make the bag pay for it’s unscheduled flight.

The DOT should stand firm on behalf of passengers and implement this change.

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans (April 19)

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