Simply stating that the Alaska airports that got federal money with only a few residents may be totally misleading.
For example. Alaska and these communities may have a huge fishing industry. This small lsland may be the fishing boats offloading port. And while the number of residents on the island may be few. the fact that 100% of the fresh fish that is offloaded may be using aircraft. These aircraft may not even be based at the airport and simply are cargo haulers.
However this fact if my hypothetical was true is NOT ever reported in these reports. Only the fact that $X million dollars are spent for a town that only has 40 residents or whatever. That statistic may be true but is completly irrelevant.
That is the point of these "news" articles. They are biased. And the point can be taken even further. We pilots and people close to aviation can immediately identify the bias and the agenda driven articles that relate to flying and aviation. But this same bias likely also exists in EVERY other article that we read. But because we are not experts in those other fields, we simply accept the article as true. So the rest of the population just read these biased articles and accept them as true just like we do for all those other subjects we know little about.
Most state aviation (DOT etc) departments or economic and planning agencies can do economic analysis of the costs and the benefits to the economy. Airports do extremely well in these analysis. Especially if you were to do the the same type analysis on the city library, of the county jail. Not many people will complain about the cost to replace the main street of town even though that strip of pavement will not bring in one dollar of revenue directly to the city coffers. Yet somehow the same public seems to think that the strip of asphalt out at the airport has to bring in cash and pay for itself. That is insane. Wisconsin does periodic surveys of public use airports. And the results show that even the smallest airport cost VERY little to operate. And this is on a simple airport operational budget costs minus the revenues from hangars, fuel flowage fees etc. For airports with 5,000' or more this cost was I believe on average something like a cost to the local community of like $35,000 a year. What other city facility runs with that kind of cost? Compare that to the cost of the community library? I'd be willing to bet that most local library's cost the local taxpayer MORE than the cost to keep the airport open. And I'd further bet that the airport contributes more economically for supporting business and bringing in jobs than does the library. So when local "leaders" start trying to kill the airport simply by the costs. Start digging into the costs of other community provided facilities and then go to the city council meetings with these FACTS. So they have something to think about before they go off half cocked and shoot thier mouths off next time!
The most disturbing line in the whole "story" was calling the private aircraft owners fat cats. This is the single biggest falsehood there is. While it is true that there are costly aircraft. Most do not know that you can buy a Cessna 150 for less cost than a new Harley Davidson! When you tell people that their Ford mustang (or SUV or whatever) they have outside their house costs more than many of the airplanes out at the airport they are totally dumbfounded.