Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Up In The Air

The Morning Joe Rebuttal for February 2, 2010


1) I’m flying today, and I’m flying Southwest. This airline is not immune to some of the same maintenance troubles we have seen across the US airline industry, but it does not have Colgan Air in charge of its unprofitable routes. You can look at the planes and see some are tertiary market planes and some are LA-SFO top line planes. The chief difference is that it’s the same mechanics, same pilots, same standards. My other two favorite airlines Jet Blue and Virgin America don’t have contract service for route completion either.

Continuing on his hitting streak, Mike Barnicle has paragraphed Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski’s raw anger, considering their own airborne near miss. Barnicle caught the whole subject by identifying the major airlines as cutting corners across their business from safety to pensions as the ultimate culprit. This example is another in a series of open wounds in the disintegrating old world American airline industry. Unrelated to the Buffalo crash, but somehow part of the equation are those other statistics, like when Las Vegas turns down United for growth into the Nevada market because it doesn’t want to risk the burden of United using bankruptcy again to void pensions, leaving its retired mechanics as wards of the state.

I have friends who have had severe life disruptions because out of school they chose Delta and Continental as their career paths. Both are no longer in the industry. The person I’m closest with endured humiliation after humiliation for nearly 10 years prior to finally restructuring his vocational plan. And just to be very clear, 9/11 occurred near the end of that 10 years, not early as a chief causal factor. Now take that scenario one further step to those airlines wanting out of the small commuter routes and moving toward a version of outsourcing that enabled them, or so they thought, a degree of plausible deniability to some of the most reckless cutting they desired to move their bottom line and executive bonuses forward.

2) Education Secretary Arne Duncan might as well have said ‘unions have consequences’ in his non answer today to why the teachers union was obstructing his ‘race to the top’ program for New York. Look closely and you’ll see that look that you normally see in job interviews from trained hr execs that are making you do all the talking, while they note results. Duncan will wait for the teachers union to make a conciliatory plan, or they will be the cause of a significant loss of opportunity for New York’s children and watch the bottom fall out.

That is management, empower the parts of the organization to strive to get better, or cut themselves. It serves in stark contrast to the style of management we talked about with the airlines above where cutting your way to victory still has supportive boards of directors.

Next step for this discussion has to be ‘no state left behind’. The quickest way to make a state seem like Chainsaw Al Dunlop is to leave it facing disastrous choices on multiple fronts from health, to transportation to education.

The states are no better than the airlines in that they were very bold in their attempts to get handouts in 2009. Unfortunately in state after state, key funding for the three big things above has been migrated to other parts of the budget. If you were going to fund a state initiative anywhere from the federal level, the last thing you would do is leave that state any wiggle room, they will let you down like a central park junkie at this point.

Arne Duncan is making this point in the New York issue via lack of comment on Morning Joe today. That void says this: the teachers union will not take Duncan’s program and reduce it to status quo through double speak like “let’s make this competitive fund available to all teachers”.

And these are teachers.

That’s all for today, see you tomorrow.

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