Shining a Spotlight on the Stealth Airline Bailouts
We all remember the bank bailouts of 2008, but almost nobody talks about the more recent COVID bailouts. $50 billion here; $25 billion there – pretty soon we're talking about real money. The airlines were one of several industries that enjoyed special treatment from the federal government on the grounds that they constituted an "essential business." What would happen if the airports shut down completely? Sounds scary.But the airline industry was never at risk of disappearing, notes Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. In a series of policy briefs co-authored with air travel guru Gary Leff, de Rugy shows the colossal waste of taxpayer dollars that took place while no one was paying attention. Rather than re-organizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws, as businesses do all the time, inefficient airlines were able to keep paying dividends to their shareholders while less privileged businesses went under permanently.Now, politicians like Bernie Sanders are criticizing Southwest airlines for the debacle of its holiday cancellations (and he has a point)But what else should we expect from an industry that makes money whether it performs well or not?