How many times have you made the statement to yourself (or to your significant other) “Man, they just don’t get it.”? Maybe it’s because I am getting older, but it seems like those “Get off my lawn!” moments are happening more and more frequently to me. Let me give you a couple of examples from this week.
I read an article from Slate today about the plight of airline pilots, written from the point of view of a airline pilot. In this rant, he blames the consumer for looking for $99 fares causing airline executives to: look for less experienced (cheaper) pilots, for diverting flights from big planes to commuter jets, for the decrease in pilot pay and even for the company not providing the pilots with free food.
We all know that the airline business is a tough one to be in. It has been estimated that the US airline industry in all of its years of operation has not posted a cumulative profit. Be that as it may, the pilots for a long time ruled the roost. Their unions have provided the most senior of these pilots with salaries well into the 6 digits. The author of the article talks about new pilots making “welfare wages”. In fact, first year pilots make in the low $30K range across many of the major carriers. Not big bucks, but it is based on a half time flying schedule. They are limited by Federal Law (FAR 121.481) to a maximum of 1000 hours flying time per year, which is considered half time in my book. Yes, they have to get to the job, but so do a lot of commuters. I don’t know about you, but $32K is not welfare wages. In fact, it is right at the median for wages across the whole US. The picture changes as the pilot gets more experience. With the larger carriers, within 3 years, the salary will double or almost triple. With the regional airlines, the initial salaries are lower and the rate of increase is also lower. The pilots’ union for these carriers have had less success in negotiating the higher salaries than their brethren at the majors.
The author claims that safety is compromised by hiring younger, less experienced pilots at the regional airlines. These pilots must meet the same qualifications, mandated by the FAA, as at the bigger carriers. His conclusion that the safety of passengers is threatened has not been verified by the actual events. Flying in a commercial jet (of any size) is safer than most other modes of transportation.
But the most laughable point was that despite flying a full day, the pilots were not given free food. Now, other than Google (and a few other non-traditional companies), where else do you, as an employee, expect to be fed while on the job? Heck, even at Burger King, employees are not given free food, only discounted meals. Get off my lawn!
Well, let’s see… I haven’t talked about health care in about 12 hours, so let’s hit that one as well…
The AMA, Big Insurance and Big Pharma are against any major reformation of health care in our country. And why not. They are all making a ton of money at our expense. I read an article by Abraham Verghese in the Wall Street Journal about the health care debacle from a doctor’s perspective. In his article, he decries preventive medicine and electronic medical records (EMR) as not helping to solve the problems of our age. In my opinion, both preventive medicine and EMR provide critical advantages to our populace. Preventive medicine will allow doctors to get more information on the tracking of conditions. This will provide the benefit to aggressively treat a risk factor and hopefully shortcut the critical issues that cost the most amount of money. If the doctor was tracking the coronary heart disease over a period of time, the doctor and the patient together could plan for a treatment that was gradual and effective, rather than waiting for the heart attack and then starting treatment. From both the cost standpoint and the quality of life standpoint, the patient would be in a better position. EMR, if implemented correctly, will allow doctors to have the wisdom of the crowds to gather information on conditions and how others have successfully treated them, in much closer to real time. Today we wait for articles to appear in medical journals to get our information. We can and must do a better job here. Dr. Varghese, you just don’t get it. The world has changed and the medical community needs to change as well.
So, the former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich writes regarding the health care crisis that the only way that we will get out of this mess is to look to cost containment, or even cost reduction. Those doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, drug companies and their friends will need to reduce the costs of providing their products and services. The best way to do that is through the free market system and a mandate from the government to implement changes in our medical systems. President Obama needs to have a strong hand and force the issue.