Nationalize the Airlines!

One week after what is being called the "attack on America" the aftershocks continue to be felt. The far-reaching effects of this recent terrorist attack are sending shockwave not only the through the American but also the world economy. In Monday's trading stocks were down nearly across the board (with the exception of many armaments companies!) with many investors wondering how the attack will affect the bottom line. But no sector was as hard hit by the attack or on Wall Street as the airline industry. American Airlines was down $ 11.70 to $18.00; US Air down $ 6.05 to $5.57 United down $13.32 to $17.50 - losses close to 50 percent for each and every one of the airline stocks. To try and curb the selling frenzy the airlines announced huge layoffs hoping to demonstrate that they were tightening their belts. US Air announced 11,000 layoffs and Continental Airlines announced that 12,000 of their employees would not have a job next week. These layoffs are just a fraction of the 100,000 jobs that Continental's Chief Executive said could be lost in the airline industry alone.

So why are investors so scared? Why are the airlines having such a hard time? One reason they cite is lowered bookings on flights. While this may be a valid concern for many travelers how can it bankrupt them immediately? A second concern is the increased cost of implementing new security measures in place to try to prevent further attacks. This once again begs the question; why isn't the traveling public protected to this degree now? The answer is that these companies must answer to the highest capitalistic power, the profit margin. When the market will not let ticket prices go higher the only answer is to cut corners. Airport "security personnel" are paid in part by the airlines and make little more than minimum wage. The turnover rate at these jobs is as high as 300 percent at some airports. Why work in such a repetitive, high-stress, job when even McDonald's offers more? They are not specially trained because they will be off to greener pastures sooner or later. This inexperience can have deadly consequences as we saw on Tuesday the 11th.

As fast as the rescue effort began the airlines had lobbyists running around Washington franticly trying to find cash for the "poor airlines". The relationship between the "impartial" government and big business is clear. Working hand in hand with the airline industry, the government has come up with an aid package worth $24 billion dollars - public money. Michael Wascom of Air Transport Association, an industry lobby group was quoted as saying, "this is not a bailout. This is survival we are talking about."

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said details of the aid plan had to be worked out, but said there was "some recognition'" that airlines should be "made whole" for losses directly related to the attacks. The industry wants $5 billion in compensation for those losses. "What we do on the balance of the project, or the package, that is something we're going to have to look at," he said.

Essentially, the airlines want free public money, so that they can then make private profit once they get back on their feet! So what can be done? If the airlines can not run safely, efficiently, and at a reasonable cost what are we to do? Public ownership under workers' control is the only solution. If they want public money to run the airlines, then let the public run them in their own interests! In the past during times of war even the capitalists advocated partial nationalization of industry critical to the war time effort such as the railroad. Today's railroad is the air travel/shipping industry. We all have seen the effects of a few days without air travel, mail delivery, etc. Imagine if these companies go out of business! Now of course the capitalists via their legal arm, the government, will try to bail out the airlines to save what is left of the boom (which is very little!).

We cannot be assured a trip let alone a safe trip as long as profit comes before passengers and their safety. We have never had a stronger case to nationalize an industry as we do now with the airlines saying flat out that without help they will not make it. Already there are moves by the federal government to take over airport security. But why stop there? We must nationalize this industry and nationalize with the only leadership fit to run it democratically and in the interests of everyone - the working class!