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Alan Murray, Claire Zillman

FAA's ground stop proves business needs a functioning government to thrive

(Credit: Al Drago—Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Good morning.

Unfortunately, I was traveling yesterday, and got caught up in the FAA’s ground stop, which caused more than 1,200 flights in the U.S. to be cancelled and thousands more to be delayed. Fortunately, mine was in the latter category, and I am writing this while finally making my way back to New York. Hard to know what to make of the air travel mess, but a few takeaways:

—The breakdown of a key software system used by the FAA underscores that it’s not just Southwest that has antiquated systems desperately in need of updating. Traveling Americans deserve better.

—Knowledgeable sources said a cyberattack wasn’t at the root of the problem. But if the software is that antiquated, it is probably vulnerable to cyberattack as well.

—Delta and United managed the shutdown better than American and Southwest. If you have a choice, it should now be clear which airlines you should fly.

—The FAA’s role is a reminder that the U.S. needs a functioning federal government to keep the planes running on time, among many other things. Gridlock and partisan stalemate are not good for business or the economy.

On that last point, there’s growing concern that last week’s extended showdown over electing a House speaker may set the U.S. up for a debt limit crisis later this year. Rules changes adopted by the House in the wake of the showdown have made it easier for a small group of House extremists to hold the country’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt limit. Interestingly, the rule changes also make it possible for a small group of House GOP moderates to resolve such a crisis by siding with Democrats. But the problem here is that both parties are increasingly in thrall to the small number of people who vote in primaries and lack incentives to act in the broader public’s interest.

Readers of this newsletter constantly counsel me to steer clear of politics, and most of the CEOs I speak with would like to do the same, but it’s difficult for business to thrive in a society where politics is broken.

More news below.

Alan Murray

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