May 15, 2013 | 165 comments
April 9, 2013 | 42 comments
March 1, 2013 | 50 comments
February 20, 2013 | 109 comments
February 18, 2013 | 73 comments
The editors of Newsweek thought so.
(Page 2 of 2)
That was the story line in the then popular movie Up in the Air, starring George Clooney — one of the president’s biggest supporters in Hollywood — as the “downsizing expert” who racks up more than 10 million frequent flier miles going from city to city to terminate an endless parade of desperate employees. As it happened, I had just seen the movie.
I felt sure that Newsweek’s treatment of “Lay Off the Layoffs” idea would offer more of the same screwy logic in seeing a bottomless gold mine of opportunity for unscrupulous businessmen to make money by shuttering plants and laying people off.
Of course, there are firms (and Bain Capital was one of them) that specialize in restructuring distressed companies and returning them to profitability. What they do used to go by the respectable name of “re-engineering.” But that was in another age, before large government bailouts of distressed companies gained general acceptance.
The Newsweek article did not disappoint. That is to say, it was even worse than I thought. And it was the perfect companion piece to Clooney’s Up in the Air. So I wrote a story for the Weekly Standard aimed at correcting some of the nonsense spread by Clooney and Newsweek.
The Newsweek article opened by singling out Southwest Airlines for special praise in hiring new workers and expanding its operations in the midst of the first big slowdown in commercial aviation history — the great slump that occurred after al Qaeda succeeded in simultaneously hijacking and crashing four U.S. jetliners on 9/11/2001 — two into the Twin Towers, a third into Pentagon, and fourth that crashed into an open field after passengers revolted and tried to regain control of the airplane and from the armed and already prepared-to-die hijackers.
As someone who has written about the airline industry for several decades (both as a reporter for leading publications and, at other times, as a speechwriter for CEOs in the airline and aircraft industries), it wasn’t hard for me to highlight the absurdity of Newsweek’s premise — which would have the reader believe that if all of the nation’s airlines had followed Southwest’s example, the industry would have rebounded quickly from the disaster that happened on 9/11.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Among the large airlines, Southwest, by reason of being the one big low-cost carrier, was the only the one that was strategically positioned to expand and pick up market share from the others during a period of falling demand for the industry as whole. As a group, U.S. airlines were losing more than ten cents on every dollar of sales during the post 9/11 slump. With the exception of Southwest and a couple of low-cost, low-fare upstarts — JetBlue and AirTran — they had no choice but to retrench. If anything, the big carriers were slow to downsize in the aftermath of this great national tragedy (employment at U.S. airlines declined only half as fast as revenues in two years after 9/11).
Now here is one last irony which I omitted from my piece in the Weekly Standard as a result of being limited to 1,000 words: Newsweek out-sourced its own story on outsourcing (or downsizing and then farming out the work, which comes to the same thing). Even as it was laying off staff members, it relied upon on an outside source (Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business) to write its cover story.
I ended my story with the words: “The big threat to today’s economy is not corporate downsizing, but government upsizing.”
With Obama’s reelection, we are sure to get more of both in the year ahead — more government upsizing and, with that, a demoralized and diminished private sector, leading to more corporate downsizing.
No doubt about it: Team Obama licked its chops at the thought of applying the whole sad fantasy of unfairness and victimization (from Up in the Air / Lay Off the Layoffs / and Occupy Wall Street) to the 2012 election. In Mitt Romney — from Bain Capital — they even had someone they could portray as an honest-to-God “downsizing expert.” Mitt might have been George Clooney’s boss-of-bosses in Up in the Air. What luck!
Unfairness was the winning hand in this election. It trumped the free market and the argument that failed economic policies were a more than sufficient cause for dismissal.
That makes Nov. 6 a dark day for America — and the world.
As for Newsweek, there is no need to mourn its passing. It is going to its just reward in the boneyard of print journalism.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?