I think I can help U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
He’s very upset that the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration team, is canceling the rest of its show season due to the across-the-board federal budget cuts.
“As painful as the canceling of the Blue Angels’ 2013 season has been for Pensacola, it is symbolic of a government that can’t prioritize its budgeting decisions, and much deeper impacts being felt in communities throughout America,” he wrote in an op-ed piece published in the Pensacola News Journal.
Actually, canceling flight demonstrations seems like some pretty sensible prioritizing to me. In the hierarchy of “painful” cuts created by the so-called sequestration — the nuclear option triggered by Congress’ inability to work out specific budget cuts — the Navy’s decision to cancel some air show performances of its aerial stunt team seems reasonable.
You’d imagine that a senator from Florida would be taking a stand about some other cuts before decrying the loss of “the usual roar of F18 Hornets” at air shows.
For example, the Federal Older Americans Act has been cut nearly 6 percent by the automatic budget cuts. This is a program that provides home-delivered meals, personal home care and transportation to poor seniors in Florida who’ve lived beyond their resources and are trying to survive at home with dignity and avoid going to nursing homes.
When 85-year-old shut-ins aren’t getting meals due to budget cuts, griping about not being able to watch combat jets perform noncombat acrobatic ballet for the amusement of the well-fed, seems … well, besides the point.
Rubio went on to write that canceling the Blue Angels season was only going to save about $28 million in taxpayer money.
“That’s less than one percent of the total cuts made to the Navy’s operating budget for the 2013 fiscal year,” he wrote. “There’s little doubt that these savings could have been found elsewhere.”
Yes, the government is full of wasteful spending.
Which brings me to my solution, a way to keep the Blue Angels in the air.
I’m surprised Rubio hasn’t thought of it already, because it’s in the immigration bill he supported in the Senate.
In order to placate the hardliners on the political right, Rubio supported amendments to the immigration reform bill that would turn the border with Mexico into a militarized zone.
This overkill of federal spending, estimated be about $40 billion, includes hiring 20,000 more border agents, constructing 700 miles of double fencing, and employing aerial drones.
Clearly, this act of political mollification is a monumental flushing of taxpayer money, considering that border crossings are at a 40-year low, the net migration with Mexico is zero and so many undocumented residents come to America the way Rubio’s parents did: by getting a visa, then never leaving.
On the other hand, it could save the Blue Angels.
With such a huge pot of border security pork, it would be easy to carve out some money for the Blue Angels, which could be kept in the air during the sequester by being repurposed as an acrobatic border-security flight team.
Instead of employing drones, the Navy’s aerial stunt team could be used to make low level-supersonic passes over the Rio Grande. The sonic booms alone should be enough to scare would-be crossers back to Mexico.
The sight of those blue-and-gold painted military jets screaming across the desert in dazzling formations, and occasionally dive bombing perilously close to the ground, would be a better deterrent than additional layers of fencing.
And once the Blue Angels are taken care of, it might free up Rubio to be an advocate for Florida’s poverty stricken seniors, who could really use a wing man with his priorities in the right places.