The U.S. government's shutdown clearly was triggered by House Republicans who are taking appropriations hostage in a last-ditch effort to hold off Obamacare. But some decisions on what government services are "non-essential" suggest the Obama administration is playing politics as well by making sure the pain is felt far and wide. Take the FAA's move to close its registration branch in Oklahoma City. The decision already is delaying deliveries of passenger jets, business jets and general aviation aircraft. Airbus was unable to deliver an A321 jet to JetBlue Airways on Oct. 1, and two U.S. Airways-bound A330-200s could soon be held up. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association says scheduled deliveries during the next two weeks of about 135 aircraft worth nearly $1.4 billion are at risk if the registration office remains closed.
The office was deemed essential during government shutdowns in the 1990s and continued to operate. So what has changed? "To declare the FAA registry non-essential flies in the face of logic," David Warner, a Seattle-based aviation attorney, tells Aviation Week. "But if you're trying to make the dispute as painful as possible for the American people, then yes, you close it."
Investigating air crashes also seems to be non-essential. The National Transportation Safety Board inspection team has furloughed all but three of its 135 workers. The board pulled back a team that was investigating the crash of a Cessna CJ2+ business jet last week at Santa Monica Airport in California. All four passengers on board were killed.
To the outside world, America's vaunted democracy must not look very appealing.