Monday, October 06, 2008

Holding Our Breath

Just in case you wondered, I’ve been traveling this weekend -- visiting my daughter at college. It’s an interesting experience, making sure you have enough gas to make a round trip because you might not find any. I understand the Southeast is somewhat unique in the gas shortage. It was interesting -- in a frightening sort of way. Panic comes all too easily to the populace. You can’t help but wonder what would happen if there was a shortage of something more important than gas -- like food or cash.

The good news is that the gas shortage seems to be easing and we here in Georgia can go back to holding our collective breath with the rest of the nation -- waiting to see what comes next. I no longer have to wait in isolation, wondering if we will have to start numbering our Depressions the way we’ve had to renumber our wars. The Great War World War I and World War II -- The Gulf War The First Iraq War and the Second Iraq War. Bush I and Bush II. Every other commentator is now uttering the previously unthinkable (it-might-cause-a-panic) phrase -- “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” Now we only have to wonder if $700 billion is enough to do the trick.

While we wait for the answer, the aviation world seems to be in a holding pattern. NATCA is getting first-hand experience as to how union busting really works. Today’s company goons don’t carry guns and ax handles, they carry briefcases and legal degrees. The FAA has already destroyed their profession a second time and they just might put a second union’s scalp on their belt. It will be interesting to see what “contract” the FAA offers during the next union election and whether or not NATCA’s membership has learned any lessons. In that NATCA’s membership mirrors the FAA’s personnel practices -- less experience as the record retirements continue -- I’m not real hopeful.

Of course, every cloud has its silver lining. Federal employees have joined the rest of America in their dependance on 401K-type retirements. They too will have to redetermine if they can afford to retire after the recent hit the economy has taken. Maybe the FAA won’t lose all of their experienced controllers after all.

I wonder if the NATCA members I know will still vote against their best interests again by voting Republican -- telling themselves that the country is more important than their well-being ? It’s a noble sentiment and one that I applaud. I just don’t understand how anyone can think that two wars, the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, a $10 trillion dollar national debt, a $1,200 dollar decline in median income, 4,000 dead and 30,000 wounded soldiers, $4 dollar-a-gallon gas and 5 million more citizens living in poverty is in the best interest of the country. Maybe they’ll take a look at their paychecks and their retirement funds and it will dawn on them that they are Americans too. And that they have a voice.

In the mean time (pardon the appropriate but unintended pun) we all wait, holding our breath instead of acting. And while we stand frozen in our fear, the damage goes on unabated.

Report faults FAA over maintenance outsourcing

”Although the FAA has taken steps to improve, "the agency still faces challenges in determining where the most critical maintenance occurs and ensuring sufficient oversight," investigators said in the report this past week.

In airlines' effort to lower costs, the report said, they continue to shift heavy airframe maintenance from in-house mechanics and engineers to hundreds of repair companies in the United States, Canada, Mexico and countries in Central America and Asia. “

Our jobs are still being shipped overseas and our government still stands bowed before the altar of unregulated capitalism. Only this type of deregulation won’t just take your money or your retirement -- this one can take your life.

If only I had paid attention in school, maybe my words would have the power and clarity of Garrison Keillor’s.

”Confident men took leave of common sense and bet on the idea of perpetual profit in the real estate market and crashed. But it wasn't their money. It was your money they were messing with. And that's why you need government regulators. Gimlet-eyed men with steel-rim glasses and crepe-soled shoes who check the numbers and have the power to say, "This is a scam and a hustle and either you cease and desist or you spend a few years in a minimum-security federal facility playing backgammon." “

If only I could find the words. Don’t hold your breath. I won’t. I’ll use the words that I can find and do the best that I can. You might want to give it a try. You might be surprised how well it works. It beats standing frozen in panic --turning blue in the face. Breathe. Act.

Don Brown
October 6, 2008

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