Flying Cheap

I’m watching the PBS documentary “Flying Cheap” about the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, which was a “regional” plane flying Continental Airlines colors that crashed in February 2009 due to a “recoverable” stall. It’s called a “watershed” moment in the airline industry because it exposed an industry culture of cost cutting, underpaid staff, etc. The crew was tired, and the co-pilot (who made only $16,000 per year) had “commuted” from Seattle, Washington to New York for the flight during the night/morning of the day of the flight itself.

The crash and this PBS documentary raise all kinds of concerns, but none more troubling to me than the following realities of the state of US society (which also applies to other countries) in the modern age:

1). People want the cheapest price. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few cents. We have become a nation and a world in which the lowest possible price always wins. This is called a benefit of “capitalism”, and it’s utterly disgusting. The lowest possible price is not always the best. As the old saying goes, “buy cheap, buy twice”, and when it comes to your own personal safety, you don’t get to live your life over again when that fails.

2). Deregulation and the removal of big, powerful, centralized, federal government from the affairs of things like the daily running of airlines is regarded as a “good” thing by many, the same kinds of people who scramble to explain how the financial ruin we’re in wasn’t due to a lack of regulation after Conservatives (and some democrats – small D) went about systematically laying ruin to checks and balances. The reality is that when you remove regulation, and moronically decide that government is a bad thing, you get chaos. You get unchecked behaviors that are often bad, people out to make a profit from whatever they can.

2). The state of sick pay and time off in the US today is utterly disgusting. We live in an age where it’s somehow seen as acceptable that people taking time off due to sickness should cover their own lost wages (or more likely, just not call in sick). A kind of Thomas Paine missguided reality in which everyone takes care of themselves and the government takes care of nobody. In fact, we should have a reality in which federal, state, and employer insurance provides for strong coverage of folks who are sick (who should have universal healthcare, too), who don’t have to worry about taking time off due to illness. They leave their germs at home, they don’t fly planes, and so forth. What about abuse? Sure. This is always possible. But unlike Conservatives, I don’t think abuse is everywhere, and I think it’s acceptable to allow a certain amount in favor of the greater common good. Just like how everyone should receive unemployment coverage and strong benefits because most people are actually decent and honest, and not out to cheat the system.

We need to get over a culture in which cheaper is always best, people think they should take care of every aspect of societal care for themselves – rather than their government, which should be helping in a caring society – and in which regulation is feared as some evil. It’s not just the US, this can be seen the world over. Right now, in the UK, the Conservative Party (with the complicity of the Liberal Democrats) is attempting to lay waste to and systematically ruin that country more than it already is. This is the nature of Conservatism and it is always entirely wrong. It must be countered and corrected with strong Liberal values and opinions for the sake of the well being of all future generations.

This has been a rant.


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