Open letter to President Obama (Part 221)


President Obama c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here.

The federal government screws up so many things it is truly amazing. I have been ranting and raving about the U.S. Postal Service on here over and over and over. Now it is time to move on to some other areas where the federal government is involved when they  have no business being. (Read below how the Soviets were very impressed when Reagan put the Air Traffic Controllers union in their place. They looked at each other and said that their days were numbered if Reagan was that direct with them.)

Air Traffic Control Screwups

Posted by Chris Edwards

The Washington Post today describes the latest near-miss disaster at National Airport, apparently the result of screw-ups by our government-run air traffic control (ATC) system. The Post notes that this near-accident is one of many troubling incidents in recent years:

…the near-collision was another among several thousand recorded errors by air traffic controllers nationwide in recent years. National has been the site of some of the most notable incidents, including one revealed last year in which the lone controller supervisor on duty was asleep and didn’t respond when regional controllers sought to hand off planes to National for the final approach.

News of the sleeping controller at National last year led to the revelation that controllers on overnight shifts at several other airports were napping on the job.

Is our ATC system is so troubled because it is

  • a government bureaucracy,
  • a monopoly that doesn’t face competitive pressures to improve quality, or
  • a union-dominated organization?

I don’t know the answer; maybe it’s all three. But news stories like the one today usually don’t mention the role of the unions, and newspaper readers may just conclude that the fault is simply one of a bumbling Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bureaucracy.

However, I coincidentally received a letter in the mail today from an anonymous FAA official who points to some of the problems caused by the militant National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). He or she says that the “NATCA union holds the FAA management hostage and little is done to correct the problems … The NATCA union is too powerful and management is too intimidated to do their jobs.”

The letter writer may or may not have all his or her facts straight–the letter is here [PDF] so you can judge for yourself. However, I do think that the media could do a better job probing the role of unionization in the FAA’s substandard performance. People remember Ronald Reagan’s battle with the air traffic controllers, but that was just a blip in a much longer story. Unions have been creating problems for the ATC system since the 1960s, as I mention in this essay.

This is the last portion from an excellent article by Peggy Noonan ”Ronald Reagan at 100,” (Wall Street Journal, Feb 3, 2011).

His most underestimated political achievement? In the spring of 1981 the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization called an illegal strike. It was early in Reagan’s presidency. He’d been a union president. He didn’t want to come across as an anti-union Republican. And Patco had been one of the few unions to support him in 1980. But the strike was illegal. He would not accept it. He gave them a grace period, two days, to come back. If they didn’t, they’d be fired. They didn’t believe him. Most didn’t come back. So he fired them. It broke the union. Federal workers got the system back up. The Soviet Union, and others, were watching. They thought: This guy means business. It had deeply positive implications for U.S. foreign policy. But here’s the thing: Reagan didn’t know that would happen, didn’t know the bounty he’d reap. He was just trying to do what was right.


Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.


Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733,


President  and Nancy Reagan with Ray Charles after acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Dallas, Texas.  8/23/84.

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