Up in the air

Almost international: Sacramento International Airport is a name long uttered in snickers, a testament to the region’s delusions of grandeur.

For a city this size, it ain’t a bad little airstrip, and travelers can usually get direct or near-direct flights to the best spots in the states, sometimes for even cheaper than they can get by flying out of San Francisco or Oakland.

But you see, Sacramento International Airport has always been a misnomer because, unless you consider Texas to be a foreign land—and that’s always been a gray area for Bites—there are no international flights from here.

Tired of getting heckled by their buddies over at SFO (San Franciscans can be such snobs), airport officials here sought to have Sac International grow into its name with the addition of non-stop flights to Mexico starting next June.

Then came September 11. Shut down temporarily like the rest of the airports in the country because of terrorism, it reopened into uncertain times with airlines canceling flights and laying off tens of thousands of workers. And now, airport officials say the new connection to Mexico is being re-evaluated.

“My intent over the next several weeks is to figure this thing out,” said Cheryl Demetriff, point person on the Mexicana Airlines deal.

Living up to its name is probably the least of Sacramento International’s concerns right now. Hell, we should probably all just hope that the current problems facing the industry and the country allow us to keep rightfully calling it Sacramento Airport.

Flying free: OK, OK, that was probably a cheap shot. Terrorists or financial woes be damned, this certainly isn’t a country that is going to let airplane travel go the way of the passenger blimp or pogo stick.

Even if it means government taking over the airlines—United Airlines, American Airlines and all the rest just becoming United States of America Airlines—Bites has little doubt that Americans will keep soaring.

Of course, American politicians have always preferred bailouts to buyouts. Even the most strident “free market” advocates don’t want major companies or industries free to fail. And that’s why Congress coughed up $15 billion to bail out the beleaguered airlines.

The airlines then took that cash and continued cutting jobs and services, so what did we get for our money? Some will say this isn’t the time to be pinching pennies or demanding public accountability, but Bites says this is precisely the time to expect the most from our institutions.

Instead of just handing $15 billion over to the airlines, one proposal briefly floated would instead have given every American a travel voucher of, say, $300—enough for a round-trip ticket to somewhere cool (and, coincidentally, the same amount as those recent tax rebate checks).

That way, airlines would still get the money they need to stay in business, they’d need to keep all the laid-off employees and maybe even hire more to handle all the business, Americans would get some much-needed vacations and we’d stimulate a broad cross-section of the tourism industry that has been so hard-hit by the war situation.

It’s this kind of innovative, egalitarian thinking—not our patriotic songs, military might or contradictory capitalist conundrums—that make this a truly great country. Rather than simply cutting checks to either taxpayers or corporations, let’s use that storied American ingenuity.

Hurray for us: Speaking of expectations, didja hear Governor Gray Davis and the Legislature congratulating themselves this week on increasing unemployment benefits in California for the first time in nearly a decade?

That’s right, by boosting the maximum weekly benefit to a piddling $330 and the replacement rate (the percentage of your income that you receive after getting canned) from 39 percent to 50 percent, California—with one of the highest costs of living in the country—no longer ranks 46th in pay for unemployed workers.

And this is cause for celebration?!?! We should feel shame that it took so long, and continuing shame at assuming that fired minimum wage workers can feed and house themselves on just $125 a week.