Democratic Underground

An Open Letter to my Congressman
November 7, 2001
by Richard J. Roman

Printer-friendly version of this article Tell a friend about this article Discuss this article

Dear Mr. Congressman,

I am writing this letter to thank you for many things. But first and foremost, I would like to thank you for the outstanding job you did in passing the Republican version of the Airport Security Bill.

Thank you for not bowing to public pressure. I am sure you are fully aware that 82% of the American public supported the idea of nationalizing airport security. You obviously understand that you know a lot more about what will make the public feel safe about flying than an overwhelming majority of your constituents.

Thank you for not expanding the Federal bureaucracy. The Senate plan was just too expensive. It would have put 28,000 card-carrying union members on the Federal payroll. Rather than tackle the challenge of managing this massive expansion of the Federal government's role in assuring public safety, you chose to do what is easier (and cheaper): absolutely nothing. The same underpaid, under-trained, minimum wage workers will be poorly performing the same job they were doing on September 11th, now and forever. The only difference is that now they will have Federal supervisors, which will miraculously occur without increasing the size of the Federal bureaucracy. These Federal supervisors will ensure that the private security firms will comply with all the Federal standards that they have failed to comply with for decades, in spite of tens of millions of dollars in fines levied by the FAA. I feel a whole lot safer now.

Thank you for bailing out the airlines. These fiercely competitive companies have over-leveraged themselves to expand capacity and seize market share. They consistently engage in predatory practices, often operating at or below cost on critical routes to drive smaller carriers out of business. This strategy works very well during times of economic expansion, but can be disastrous when the economy heads south. In a recession, these unsavory characters would normally go out of business, reaping what they sow, but your gift of $5 billion (and an addition $10 billion in loan guarantees) will ensure that these major contributors to your campaign funds will continue to operate business as usual.

Thank you for holding just about everyone harmless for the events of September 11th. A rash of frivolous lawsuits would most certainly have been harmful to an already weakening economy. After all, why should anyone be allowed to sue the airlines for providing a defective product that led to the deaths of over 5,000 people? Their security practices were within Federal guidelines and, after all, airlines provide a vital service to our economy. If we let the airlines go out of business, Wall Street might never recover. If we actually hold them responsible for the safety of their passengers, who would ever want to own or operate an airline again? This situation is in no way similar to the Firestone/Ford cases that threaten to bankrupt both companies. Ford is only one of two domestically owned automakers. It wouldn't harm the economy at all to let them go out of business, but airlines—airlines are vital. They must continue to fly even if people continue to die. The fact that they managed to stonewall the recommendations of two presidential commissions on airport security over the past decade and prevent any of them from ever being implemented, because they were "too expensive," should never be considered. No, the airlines should not be held responsible at all for September 11th.

Thank you for not engaging in partisan politics. After the Senate, in a rare display of bipartisan cooperation passed a bill 100-0, the House refused to consider it until the Republican leadership was certain it had the votes to defeat it. They scheduled the vote during a critical game of the World Series to be certain that most Americans would not be paying attention, and then added some good old-fashioned pork to sweeten the deal for Republicans who were undecided at the time. Republicans who said only a week ago that an Airport Security bill wasn't even necessary because the president could achieve everything he needed by executive order—when they didn't think they could get their bill though—are certainly entitled to admonish the Democrats for engaging in partisan politics if they don't support this bill.

Thank you for nothing at all. You have proven time and again that the interests of big business far outweigh any good you can provide to the common people of the United States. The lobby groups of private security companies and the airlines contribute far more to your campaign fund than I ever could. You can sleep well at night knowing that when you get on a plane at National Airport there will be a Federal Marshall onboard, while the rest of us at all the other airports in the country have to take our chances with the completely inadequate passenger screening process that you have left almost perfectly intact.