Starting Tuesday, September 1st, there will be changes to My Daily Column.
It has been discovered that the pumps installed in New Orleans as a part of the reconstruction of the flood control system by the Army Corps of Engineers, are untested and not adequate to control a disaster like Hurricane Katrina. And here’s the worst part, the Corps of Engineers could have saved $430 million by buying “proven” equipment to handle the problem. Where is the accountability in government? Why aren’t people held to the same standards as in the corporate world? And when will this blatant abuse of our tax money come to an end? There is a lot of concern about how health reform is going to be paid for. Well, stop making stupid, wasteful mistakes like this and perhaps the money will be there without having to raise taxes or find additional sources of revenue.
Which brings us to point about the cost of health-care reform. I am all for it because I feel the system is badly broken and a lot of people are “suffering” needlessly without proper medical care and a way to pay for it. But President Obama has “promised” he will not tax the over-taxed middle-class to pay for it…UNTIL…talk came up this week about a national sales tax. A tax, is a tax, is a tax, and who will wind up paying the bulk of it? You got it, middle-class Americans. Yes, it should spread the burden equally, but you know as well as I do there will be exceptions for those living below the poverty line and the wealthy will be able to influence their representatives in Congress to exempt them as well. Please, when is this going to stop?
The United States Postal Service is in big trouble. This year there is expected to be a $7 billion shortfall. While the postal service is a quasi-governmental agency, someone is going to have to make up that shortfall. Some recommendations have been to cut service to five days per week (OK), close post offices in cities where there are too many (OK), and offer buy-outs of a large portion of the employees, which will probably not go over well, because the amount is so small ($15,000) and employees have a great benefit package that few places will be able to match. I like the postal service because I think their small package and Priority Mail systems are great. They indeed get the package there quickly and at a very reasonable rate. The need for snail mail is not going away, but perhaps it’s time to sell it to a for-profit company, who will streamline it, make it more productive, and hopefully for them, profitable. There is no doubt we have the best and most economical postal system in the World. I have dealt with Canada’s postal service and it is slow, unresponsive and expensive. So, maybe we’re all going to have to bite the bullet, as the saying goes, and pay higher rates, and only get service five days a week. When you think about it, to be able to send a first-class letter to anywhere in the country for just 44 cents is a real bargain.
If Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, has his way a Federal law he has proposed will limit the size of bags people carry onboard planes. The strictly enforced legislation is in answer to the lack of enforcement by the airlines of their own policies. Some people are saying the size of bags currently carried onboard is a safety hazard, as well as being unfair to passengers boarding later who can’t find room for their own bags. According the Shane Larson of the Association of Flight Attendants, “Flight attendants are saying this is just getting out of control.” The culprit is something brought on by the airlines themselves: charging for checked baggage. Current standards are for bags that are between 40 and 55 linear inches. That’s measured by adding the length, width and depth of a bag. Under Lipinski’s proposal the maximum would be 50 linear inches, or 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches, and weigh less than 40 pounds. Members of TSA would be responsible for enforcement, not the airlines. Critics, like the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, believes it should be up to each airline to make its own policies and enforce them depending on the types and size of planes they fly. Airlines are ripping people off by charging $25 for the first checked bag, $30 for a second and as much as $100 for a third, to make up for the economic downturn and fuel prices (NOTE-that have remained level for most of this year). But safety is a real factor. Passengers have been hurt by having large bags tumble out of overhead compartments during periods of turbulence or a hard landing. And the additional weight is causing some damage to luggage bins. During a rough landing at an airport in Florida earlier this year a whole section of a baggage compartment fell on several passengers. While none were seriously hurt, it should be a warning to the industry about the practice of too many bags, bags that are too big, and weigh too much. I think a fair charge for the airlines, that would still give them extra income, and would not place such a heavy burden on the passenger’s wallet would be $2 for a small bag, $3.50 for a medium bag and $5 for a large bag. What do you think?