Thursday, December 30, 2004

Happy Holiday Travels

"Hey, I have a good idea! Let's deregulate the airline industry! It will be better: prices will go down, conglomeration will stop, service will be improved because competition will be stronger, employment opportunities will flourish. It will be great!"

OK, so that isn't exactly what was said when the airline industry was deregulated, but it is certainly was implied. Those exact sentences may not have been uttered, but all those proclamations were made!

Each time an industry has been deregulated we have been promised lower prices, more competition, more jobs, and better service. The conversation you never hear afterwards is the embarrassment that is total conglomeration, massive job loss, lower wages, higher prices, and less competition. Total failure!

Sadly, nothing will ever help the airline industry in the United States, because we fail to promote alternative forms of transportation, we fail to promote competition.

No airline is going to make money shuttling commuters between Los Angeles and San Francisco, or New York and Boston. It's just not profitable. Still, those commuters have to get between those cities and driving is not an option. So, the airlines provide those routes and lose money on them.

Most civilized nations have a rail system that provides domestic travelers a cheap, simple and efficient mode of transportation. High-speed trains have been developed and they work splendidly.

You can hold Great Britain up as an example of failed rail service, but I think it's important to know that the Brits have been privatizing the rail system in a piece-meal fashion that has led to massive corporate corruption, a breakdown of rail maintenance, and gross cover-ups of irresponsibility. British Rail is not failing because it is a railway system, it is failing because it is being raped and plundered by corporate vultures.

When you take the United States and Great Britain out of the analysis, because they have been deliberately undermining rail service, it is obvious that rail is the most efficient mode of transportation for short-distance, and medium-distance domestic travel.

Over the Christmas holidays this year, US Airways and Delta experienced horrible delays, computer difficulties, and staffing problems.

Both of these airlines have grown in size (not service or quality) since deregulation, and they are horrible service providers, horrible employers, horrible neighbors, and are all top-heavy with overpaid executives who continually cut the salaries of those who actually run the airline.

Delta grounded over 1,100 flights this Christmas! If you figure there were only 25 people booked on each flight (which is probably a gross underestimate), this means that 27,500 travelers were stuck in airports far away from their destination. Chances are the numbers were probably in the hundreds of thousands, not the tens of thousands.

Adding to the technical problems was an inordinate number of employees calling to say they would be staying home because they were sick. Union officials deny there was any organized sick-out.

If you're an employee for a bad employer and you have sick-time at your disposal and the holidays are upon us, and you're treated like crap, and you're looking at a pay cut next year, would you let your sick days expire without use or would you take some time off at the holidays to be with your family? That is not a sick-out.

So, we have fewer companies controlling more jets and more routes with crappy computer systems and disgruntled workers. What could the result be?

If we had viable high-speed rail systems (like civilized, first-world nations around the world), many of these stranded passengers would not have even been flying, they would have used the more comfortable mode of travel, a train.

There should be a train to get you from New York to Boston in two hours, or Washington, D.C. to Chicago in seven hours, or Los Angeles to San Francisco in four hours. Trains can easily average over one-hundred miles per hour with the proper infrastructure.

There is no reason to use an airline to travel four hundred miles! It is not faster than a train! When you include the time it takes to get to an airport (and in some major cities it is well over an hour travel), then add the time in the airport (at least one-hour you are required to be present before take-off), then add the time to travel away from the airport at your destination, and finally add the time for the inevitable delays all on top of the actual flight time, and a four hundred mile trip will take more than four hours. Much more than four hours.

Some say that the federal government should not be expected to prop-up the rail industry by providing a state-of-the-art track system at taxpayer expense. We prop-up the automobile industry by providing a road system at taxpayer expense (not every taxpayer owns a car), and we prop-up the airlines by providing airports at taxpayer expense (not every taxpayer travels by jet). Why is it wrong to provide a rail system at taxpayer expense? It is not wrong, it is sensible and smart and is a wise plan for the future.

Of course, the current American system of corporate welfare means any attempt to build a rail system would be wrought with corporate crime and rich guys keeping taxpayer dollars for themselves without actually building the railway, but that is a different story that I will tell over and over again. Oh, wait, I don't have to tell the story, you all know that story!

The current disrepair of our travel industry is directly connected to the failure of deregulation, the greed of corporate executives and their Republican lackeys in Congress and the White House, and the idiocy of American voters who elect these corporate rapists because they think they will stop abortion and gay marriage!

It's beyond time to reverse the failures of deregulation. How many more flights need to be cancelled? How many more workers need to get a pay-cut? How many more industries need to fail before we admit our short-comings and return to the sensible regulation of all industry.

If you voted for the current American regime or either of the two Reagan terms, I hope your flight was cancelled and you spent Christmas in an airport!

Dick Mac Recommends:
Airline Deregulation and Laissez-Faire Mythology
by Stephen Paul Dempsey and Andrew R. Goetz

Shopping Blue

I was discouraged by this piece of information from

Dell Computer donated $381,538 to political parties during the election campaigns in 2003-2004. Dell sent 22% ($84,786) to Democrats and 77% ($296,752) to Republicans. I own a Dell computer, but my next computer will not be a Dell and I will be certain to call then and let them know why.

Put your money where your mouth is and shop blue!


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