Sunday, July 31, 2005

What's a Promise Worth in America?

Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton asks this question today in a discussion of the impending loss of billions of dollars from the pension fund for the pilots of United Airlines. In particular, I thought what he said at the end of his column was worth noting and considering:
So the retired pilots have flown into a strange and foreign country, a land where covenants are broken for easy profit, where wealth trumps honor, where yesterday's most trusted professionals are today's throwaways.

Who wants to argue that the moral landscape today is not one "where covenants are broken for easy profit," and "where wealth trumps honor?" Aren't we seeing this taking place right before our eyes? Of course, the economic startegy being pursued by United Airlines isn't unique. It's happened before, and will undoubtedly continue to happen. Something of the sort happened, I seem to recall, at Enron, and at WorldCom, as these businesses collapsed. Indeed, it happened as well at Braniff Airlines when that company ceased operations. I've heard tell that, when Braniff decided to shut down, all their aircraft were ordered to land, or told not to take off. The pilots and flight crews were on their own to get home from where they were around the world -- and at their own expense. That's wrong, plain and simple.

Talton also made one other point worth noting: Had the persons participating in these pension funds been aware that the contract they'd made with the companies could be wiped out without their approval, they would have undoubtedly made other decisions to protect their retirement plans.

Can you imagine one of these business executives standing before the throne of the Lord on the great and terrible day of Judgment and trying to claim that, "I am not my brother's pension-keeper?" Not that I'm not a sinner, with much to answer for myself on that day -- but Lord, have mercy!