Larry Elder

"Let me tell you a secret," said Vice President Al Gore recently, the president is a "moral coward." Wow.

Why the latest attack? Well, the former VP accused the president of unwillingness "to stand up and say 'no.' . . . He will not choose the public interest over the private interests of a wealthy and powerful contributor." In other words, you pay, we dance. Well, then, does the administration deserve credit for saying "no" to the bailout request from United Airlines?

After all, during the last couple of election cycles, airlines gave over 60 percent of their political contributions to Republicans. According to Gore, this means the airlines simply line up behind the taxpayers' ATM, hit a few keys, grab the cash, and come back for more as necessary.

United Airlines, after 9/11, along with the other major airlines (including the profitable ones), trekked to Washington, D.C. Attributing their financial woes to the government-forced two-day commercial aircraft grounding, they asked for a package worth $24 billion in cash, loan guarantees and tax cuts. The "limited-government" Republican-led Congress and the limited-government president foolishly complied, and provided a bailout totaling $15 billion in cash, loans and loan guarantees -- you know, "emergency aid."

But why does this private industry deserve taxpayer assistance any more than, say, the mom-and-pop restaurant down the street? Yes, the government-forced shutdown cost the industry an estimated $210 million a day. But, once airlines began flying, fewer people wished to fly.
United Airlines lost $605 million in the first six months of 2001, and projected, before the 9/11 attacks, to lose still more the rest of the year. Now in bankruptcy, United took steps to reduce its operating expenses, but they still exceed the major airlines' industry average by 4 percent.

Is there something mutually exclusive about running an airline and making a profit? No. Southwest Airlines, a low-cost, fewer-frills operation, managed to make a profit in 2001 despite 9/11. Look at Jet Blue. Started in 2000, Jet Blue turned its 2002 $635 million in revenues into a $55 million profit. And, undaunted by the industry's alleged scary future, Southwest, Jet Blue and AirTran Airways -- less than one year after Sept. 11 -- all announced fleet and flight schedule expansions. Unafraid, the new Independence Air just announced flights to 35 destinations. Somehow these upstarts and start-ups seem to make it work.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.