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Was Federal Compensation of the families of 9-11 victims actually paid to protect US Airlines?
Interviewed by KOKC Radio's Steve Summers this morning, Congressman Ernest Istook explained why the families of 9-11 victims were compensated by government and the families of the 1995 OKC Murrah Bombing victims were not. "The difference there was that the 9-11 situation would have involved tremendous litigation against the airline industry," Istook said, explaining further that the expense of the litigation would have "threatened a major part of the U.S. transportation industry."
In an April 17 Chicago Tribune article, writer Howard Witt noted that although congress gave families of OKC bombing victims a two year reprieve on their federal income taxes, some ended up losing their homes anyway. It was different in New York and Washington, DC, however. "Congress gave the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks generous federal compensation payments. Most ended up millionaires."
Istook's comments on Oklahoma City radio this morning may offer a good deal of light on the real reasons for the disparity in federal compensation of the victims. American commercial airliners were used by terrorists to accomplish the 9-11 attacks. A yellow Ryder Rental truck carried the ANFO bomb that destroyed the OKC Murrah Federal Building. Istook explained that "only 9-11 families who promised not to sue the airlines were compensated by the federal government."
If Istook's comments are right, some unpleasant conclusions are unavoidable: The federal government's REAL concern was not nearly so much for the families victimized by the 9-11 airliner attacks, as for the U.S. commercial airline industry -- whose amazing lapses in security and common sense would seem to have enabled the terrorists to play out their terrible plots. Plainly -- if Istook is correct -- the 9-11 compensation was REALLY massive protectionist subsidy of the U.S. Airline industry.
Provision of secure transportation is certainly as much a part of national security as military expenditures. The safety and fuel efficiency of passenger trains is as axiomatic as their clear history of proven security during wartime in the United States. Nobody's ever heard of a passenger train being used by terrorists to knock down a building like the World Trade Center -- yet the Bush Administration still "doesn't get it." As the Administration tries to drive cash-starved Amtrak into bankruptcy, the hard-pressed rail service has had to shut down its high speed train service in the Northeast because of the apparent inability to afford proper maintenance and development of its newest equipment. Military budgets weren't used to develop Amtrak's complex Acela high-speed train sets, yet the safety, security and fabulous fuel efficiency of modern trains might well make the nation more secure and help ease today's strains on its military by decreasing foreign oil dependency. While the rail service is starved out by Washington, it's hard to count the ways public money is poured into the airline industry -- much of whose modern jet technology development was paid for by taxpayers as military aviation innovation.
In 2001, the year of the 9-11 attacks, Amtrak received $565 million from congress. The federal Aviation Administration got over $12 billion. The following year brought $878.8 million for Amtrak and $18.5 billion for the airlines -- unless you count the added millions paid by congress for the benefit of the airlines as "hush money" to the families of those lost on 9-11-01.
Tom Elmore
North American Transportation Institute
PO Box 6617
Oklahoma City, OK  73153-0617
Tel: 405 794-7163
Fax: 405-799-2641