Jobs cuts at the TSA would mean fewer security guards and longer lines. The problems would continue at the gate, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forced to cut $1 billion from its budget—reducing the number of air traffic controllers, which would translate to more delays. The FAA would also have to delay implementation of NextGen, a new aircraft guidance system that would replace decades-old technology.
In addition, the fiscal cliff would cause reductions in the federal emergency fund used to rebuild roads damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Rail travel would also take a hit, as Amtrak is set to lose $131 million.
Innovation destroyed, with short-term pain for all. Shawn Ritenour, a professor of economics at Grove City College near Pittsburgh, says the fiscal cliff would also take money away from companies that drive innovation.
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"More resources are being left out of the hands of capitalists and entrepreneurs," Ritenour says, adding that short-term pain is likely for the U.S. economy—no matter the outcome of the fiscal-cliff negotiations.
Fort Pitt's Bovard says this pain would be more acceptable if Washington could come up with long-term plans to control federal spending, while providing a clear blueprint for national fiscal policies.
"When do we take our eyes off who's going to beat the other person and say, 'How do we fix this issue'?" Bovard says, referring to political squabbling. "If you can share the pain across the board, we can get things moving in the right direction a whole lot faster. At the same time, it pulls everyone together."