Middle-class tax relief could start in the sky

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As the holidays near and most us get ready to jam Christmas gifts into our stuffed carry-ons or spend a night in O’Hare thanks to a broken lavatory smoke detector, private jet owners are preparing to fly in the lap of luxury, skipping the long lines and unnecessary delays that face everyone flying commercial.

While these affluent fliers jet off to their holiday destinations, commercial airline travelers like us are the ones footing bill for their use of air traffic control (ATC) and other critical infrastructure — a billion-dollar tax subsidy. 

{mosads}If Republicans are serious about giving the middle-class tax relief, it’s time to end our absurd subsidization of the wealthiest 1 percent and make sure those flying around in their Gulfstream IVs aren’t enjoying our country’s shared aviation infrastructure without paying their fair share of the taxes needed to pay for it.


Corporate and private jet owners are treated very differently than commercial passengers when it comes to paying for our nation’s air travel system. Despite the fact that all planes — from 200-seat commercial airliners to six-passenger private jets — utilize the same federal resources to safely guide them from takeoff to landing, high-end jet owners pay far fewer taxes than airline passengers flying the very same routes.

A recent analysis of taxes paid by major airline passengers versus private jet owners on 10 domestic routes found that private jets paid only about 7 percent of the taxes that a commercial flight paid to use the same resources. 

A privately-owned Bombardier Global 6000, for example, would pay 87-percent less in taxes than a Virgin America flight from New York to Los Angeles, with the private jet owner shelling out only $525 towards the ATC costs to safely guide the high-end jet across the country, compared to $3,900 in taxes paid by the passengers on the commercial flight.

That fact is, while private aircraft account for 10 percent of the cost of the nation’s ATC system and use approximately $1 billion in ATC resources, they contribute less than one percent of the taxes paid to the Federal Aviation Administration’s trust fund, which helps to finance investments and improvements to airport infrastructure like long-overdue ATC technology upgrades.

This means the 2 million passengers who fly commercial each day are subsidizing the 50,000 well-heeled Americans enjoying their second glass of champagne on their private planes.

Most of us will never get to have a driver park our black car right in front of our private plane for an impromptu flight to the Caribbean for the holidays.

But thanks to our broken aviation funding system, middle-class Americans continue to underwrite luxury air travel for affluent billionaires and corporate CEOs who only pay for a fraction of the aviation resources they rely on to jet around the country. 

There is so much to loathe about Donald Trump’s plan to cut taxes for millionaires, billionaires and big corporations, it’s often hard to know where to begin.

As we start making our way to overcrowded airports and wondering if we’ll be able to get our carry-ons into jammed overhead compartments this holiday season, Congress’ continued refusal to end the middle-class subsidy for wealthy jet owners certainly seems like a good place to start.

Jim Dean is the chair of Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee founded by Howard Dean.

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