Do you want some pie, boy? - Pigdog Journal


Jeez, Take the Train
2001-10-15 10:37:11

Cackles of the Mad Reverend
We'd only have the wake cause we are always looking for an excuse to drink.
-- Johnnie Royale


In America, there's usually two or three times a week when you think to yourself, "Now I've seen it all." Some obscene story on the news, some twisted fate in a situation you'd never be involved in, some new product pushed in an overtly sexual manner. It's always something.

Now that war has come into the picture, I know I've seen it all. Amidst cries for vengeance, pleas for peace, and a need for all-new nationalism, it's reassuring to know that good, old American greed is still with us. See, greed never really takes a day off; that would cut into the bottom line. Greed, unlike the typical American, has found a way to capitalize on the New York and Washington D.C. attacks.

There's no denying that the airline industry has been a mess since deregulation in 1978. In fact, the companies have been so incompetently managed on such a continuous basis that Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin, once remarked in answer to the question of how one becomes a millionaire, "Start by being a billionaire and then buy an airline." We're all familiar with the plummeting levels of service, the arcane pricing of tickets, and the fact that airline food has held more people hostage than any Islamic Jihad ever will.

Then there's the airline industry's mimicry of the oil industry when it comes to raping us around the holidays. Prices suddenly skyrocket when the industry senses that we might want to go see our loved ones, get away from everything for a while, or finally make that pilgrimage to Graceland. No matter where you go around the holidays, airlines are there to make sure that you have less cash when you reach your destination.

It's not like you can really shop around any more, either. Nope, thanks to deregulation, there are far fewer airlines now than there were in the mid-70s. Larger fish ate the smaller fish, and now you have one menu choice. This was a place where the airline industry actually lead other industries: push for deregulation, then sodomize at will. Anyone living in California can attest to this vis a vis the utility debacle last year.

Given this hyena-like ethical code and general obsession with squeezing as much from passengers as possible, one would expect the airlines to be bastions of investor confidence. However, the horrible truth is that major airlines were operating several billion dollars in the red at the time of the September 11th attacks. A combination of factors lead to this disposition: artificially inflated fuel prices from two years ago to the present, the downturn in business travel as the economy tanked, and leisure travelers not wanting to pay such exorbitant prices for common travel. The bottom line was looking grim, indeed.

Then came the Egyptian Jihad. All of a sudden, the industry had a scapegoat.

Within hours of the attack, airline industry leaders had a plan ready to roll: blame the terrorist strikes for the string of abominable business decisions that had lead the companies to their dire position. How could it go wrong? With public sympathy running so high and people so obviously afraid to travel, who wouldn't buy it?

The Bush administration leapt into action and offered $15 billion to the industry right away. While it makes some sense to help the airlines through the inevitable public aversion to air travel in the weeks after the attacks, picking up the tab for all of their inept managerial decisions seems like a bit of a stretch. It's even more of a stretch when you look at the overall tactics of the industry.

Sure, airlines have laid off tens of thousands of employees and cut back severely on the number of flights made per day. (However, in classic corporate form, none of these layoffs have touched upper-level management.) Airline media teams have been working overtime to crank out requiems left and right, lest the public lose sympathy for the industry as a whole. Full-page ads from Delta and American have run several times since the attacks, and the latest round of ads offers great fares to business travelers.

Business travelers? This is precisely the type of moronic maneuvering that lead to such desperate losses in the first place. It's as if airline executives are in complete denial as to every major business indicator available. Businesses are looking to cut back on expenses, and that means substituting teleconferences for flight time, among other things. Instead, the industry should be looking to pleasure travelers in this time of need. Who wouldn't want to go see the family or take a break from the war, especially with the uncertainty of future attacks in America?

And what about us non-business travelers? Airlines have a plan for us, too. It's right out of their old play book: GOUGE, GOUGE, GOUGE! Airline ticket prices have skyrocketed since the middle of last week, and have returned to their summertime levels. Once again, the brunt will be borne by those of us who could do the most about it if only the airlines were willing to cater to non-business travelers. There're a lot of people out here with jobs and disposable incomes, and we need a break from all the stress of AMERICA'S NEW WAR. Thus, airlines should offer us cheap rates to get us back into the seats, no?

Right, and I have a cow with lunar orbital capabilities.

Even more disturbing than this blatant two-way rape is the continuing pattern of corporations abandoning market-based solutions in favor of government sponsorship. In times past, any commingling of government funds with private industry was considered Socialism by any and every one on the right side of the aisle (see: Health Care overhaul, 1992). "Market based solutions" were championed as the best way of doing business, and the government should just butt out. Loosely translated, this means the businesses should work things out for themselves. It's really better that way, Republicans told us.

But not anymore. Now, "market based solutions" entails running to the government as fast as possible for a handout. The utility industry did it last year in California, as PG&E and SoCal Edison socked ratepayers twice for the same power. Now we have a national play for governmental corporate sponsorship. Never mind the scare stories put forth by various PR departments, the truth is always the same: corporate officers and directors never want to be held accountable for their bad decisions and will readily lay the blame anywhere else. Even if it means preying off of the nationalism generated by a horrendous and unprecedented act.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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