Thursday, July 10, 2008

Did I Just Feel Sorry for United?

As a regular user of United Airlines I have no sympathy whatsoever for a management system that someday is going to make me bust a blood vessel at a customer service counter after my third flight has been canceled in the same day. They are manipulative and deceitful on a regular basis, and seem to think the yellow-brick road to solvency lies through fields of stranded, price-gouged, or just plain hungry customers. Ben Stein's classic piece about United's financial screw-job on its own employees is required reading for air travelers everywhere.

And yet today I got a mass mailing from United management complaining about how finance capital has done a screw-job on them! The industry's CEO's have come together to denounce speculators and start a social movement. Wow is it fun to see the shoe on the other foot, the foot getting shot by oneself, the dog lying down and getting up with fleas, etc etc. Sign up with the corporate running dogs if you must, but first read their poignant denunciation of international finance.
Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we can all do something to help now.
For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs and severe reductions in air service to both large and small communities. To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower activity and widespread economic pain. This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our customers. Since high oil prices are partly a response to normal market forces, the nation needs to focus on increased energy supplies and conservation. However, there is another side to this story because normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by poorly regulated market speculation.

Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of all oil futures contracts, and that reflects just the transactions that are known. Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other again and again. A barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before it is delivered and used; the price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs.

Over seventy years ago, Congress established regulations to control excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and manipulation. However, over the past two decades, these regulatory limits have been weakened or removed. We believe that restoring and enforcing these limits, along with several other modest measures, will provide more disclosure, transparency and sound market oversight. Together, these reforms will help cool the over-heated oil market and permit the economy to prosper.

The nation needs to pull together to reform the oil markets and solve this growing problem.

We need your help. Get more information and contact Congress.
Hell, for once United management is right. I'll try to remember this moment next time I give them $907.00 for a 350 miles x2 round trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco.

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