Terry H. Schwadron
Stepping back from the uproar over the outrageous acts by United Airlines and airport security personnel dragging that Louisville-bound passenger off the plane bloodied and near-unconscious, banging his head on the armrests along the way, and here’s what I see:
That’s right, it’s the Holy Grail of Team Trump — the elimination of all substantive rules, regulation — and, as it turns out, oversight. And look at what happens! I’m shocked!
What? Eliminate regulations, and you’ll instantly increase competition, add jobs, create a financial bubble and spread happiness across the land. That’s the theory.
What happened to the airline industry? The competition went south, with mergers happening faster than a speeding jet, there are layoffs across the industry, there is no financial bubble, and, by the way, the Trumpists will remove any remaining oversight role for an increasingly toothless Federal Aviation Administration.
So, United is free to make its own rules — including the kind of routine overbooking that now is standard in the industry, the practice of bumping passengers to ferry airline crews as needed only at last minute, and creatively insisting on new unexpected fees and charges each week. And this is at a time of relatively low oil and fuel prices!
Why do we believe that this will be different as we move swiftly to de-regulate coal, utilities, banks, manufacturing and lots of other industries?
Deregulation of health insurance has been promised to increase the competition in a free market, allowing insurers to fall all over themselves with low-cost health insurance that can be sold across state lines offering fewer and fewer services — at lower prices. As we see in the United case, sometimes the price doesn’t cover all the issues that may arise. In any event, deregulation promises for health care do not address the major popular issues — rising drug costs and the high costs of deductibles and health care policies. Instead, they encourage a dive to seem to offer lower prices by throwing out the actual care part.
Deregulation for pharmaceutical companies may just provide an industry-controlled currency printing press for those companies. Eliminating oversight from the FDA, in this case, will rush more not-fully-tested pharmaceutical products to market with no control over availability, price or quality.
The bad joke here is that a whole slew of congressmen are hot under the collar about the way that United acted in this case. If they are that concerned, perhaps they should reconsider the wholesale elimination of regulations being directed by the team at the White House. Under the Trump administration, loosening rules about Internet businesses means that individuals lose rights to keep information private. Next up will be affirmation that big companies can charge more for you to use their internet connections, the basis of the fight over what is called Net Neutrality.
It’s all about freeing businesses to do what they want. The belief is that businesses only want to do good, and not lead to the kind of issue that United has created.
While we’re at it, let’s also look at what to do when your business screws up: It shouldn’t take three days of sputtering before the chief executive apologizes.
But again, I look to our government. Mr. Trump can’t say the words ”I’m Sorry” or acknowledge that he was wrong, despite an increasing number of flip-flops on issues of substance. So, it’s no surprise that Sean Spicer has trouble owning up to outlandish (and incorrect) remarks about Nazi behavior against Jews in “Holocaust centers” that the rest of us call death camps.
Saying you’re sorry means that you know the difference between right and wrong, and that you want to learn something from mis-speaking or from poor behavior.
Let’s look at the whole picture, folks, and look beyond the immediate candy-like allure of temporarily lower prices for needed services. Quality of service and appropriate humane treatment of individuals — that’s right, emphathy — play an important role in public policy-making.