It’s time to regulate airlines

Lawless capitalism doesn’t work. It just doesn’t.

In announcing his 2024 run, bounced-out-of-office ex-president Trump bragged about cutting business regulations during his wild ride in the White House.

To anyone who listens, he was giving them another reason not to vote for them. Practically every consumer can personally relate to that — in a negative way.

For example, if you fly, which Secretary of Transportation would you prefer, Mitch McConnell’s wife, who used the office to line her own pockets (see details here), or Pete Buttigieg, who’s making airlines cough up refunds for flights that never left the ground?

Jill Filipovic, a graduate of a Seattle-area high school, now a New York-based journalist and opinion writer, recounted some of her flying experiences in a CNN piece here.

By way of brief summary, she paid for flights that didn’t happen, was at least once left stranded in a foreign country, and was given useless vouchers — not refunds — in return.

She complains it’s “mind-boggling that airlines can sell you a ticket to get from Point A to Point B, not fly the plane from Point A to Point B and then keep your money – or issue you a credit they know you’re unlikely to use, so you can do the same thing all over again.”

She acknowledged that “Covid has, of course, complicated things.” And that “some cancellations are due to lack of staffing.” But …

“it’s hard to feel sorry for an industry that accepted massive government bailouts, culled its staff anyway and then says it simply doesn’t have the personnel to operate the flights it scheduled … especially when that industry has been charging more and raking in record revenue.”

The term I use for this is “stealing.” Stopping it requires more laws and cops, of the federal regulation and enforcement variety. Most businesses aren’t run by kindly people dedicated to doing the right thing by their customers, especially when bargaining power is vastly unequal. (“Fly our airline or walk, your choice.”)

Of course, the need for more — not less — regulation of businesses extends beyond airlines, and consumer protection in general. Remember Love Canal, the toxic waste dump (see details here) that led to the first comprehensive federal environmental regulations, the so-called “Superfund” law (see details here)? The basic principle is that polluters must pay for cleaning up their messes.

How hard is that? But if you elect Republicans, they’ll try to weaken enforcement of that and other environmental laws.

Try to imagine what driving would be like without traffic laws or cops to enforce them. People doing as they please, with no one to stop them. Our neighborhoods would be unlivable, even sidewalks would be unsafe (see video here), and accidents and injuries would skyrocket. Why does anyone think human nature is better in the business world, or capitalism works better in a state of anarchy?

Everyone has their own horror stories about flying, defective products, refunds, and traffic scofflaws.

The first duty of government is protecting its citizens, not only from foreign invaders, but also the predators in our communities.

Polluters prey on our health; airlines prey on our pocketbooks. Let’s regulate them both; let’s regulate them all.

Done properly, no more regulation than necessary, but enough to protect consumers and the public, regulation isn’t a bad thing; it’s a good and necessary thing. Flying shouldn’t be a lottery, with losers; dropping kids off from a school bus shouldn’t be a Hunger Games. Republicans understand this, too, and aren’t against all enforcement — just enforcement against their businesses, their drilling and mining, their waste disposal.

What’s good for them isn’t good for us, and why would you vote against yourself? As the just-concluded midterm elections showed, many of us won’t. Especially when they’re trying to take away our right to vote, too.

Photos: Sorry, no refunds

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