Thursday February 28, 2013

James Cotter seems to believe Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman is a congenital idiot ("Krugman’s worry-free Kool-Aid," letter, Feb. 19.) Cotter’s conclusions are quite common and can be attributed to human perception.

For example, Trans World Airline’s (TWA -- my employer) costly and painful experience caused it to write, in bold print in the bottom margin of each odd page in their flight manuals, "What is the true situation?" On the facing page, also in bold print, was "Nothing in this manual replaces good judgment on the firing line." For example, an oil press indication drops to zero over the mid-Atlantic. The power plant is quickly shut down, placing the flight at some risk, only to learn, later, it was an instrument failure, not an engine failure. The bit about "good judgment" was intended to leave the air crew free to deal with any unusual condition that wasn’t specifically spelled out in the manual.

Back to Mr. Krugman: What I see in Krugman’s advice is what he learned from our Great Depression and what he now sees in places like Ireland which is suffering 50 percent unemployment that stemmed from the austerity measures Mr. Cotter seems to cherish.

During the Great Depression, during which my unemployed stepfather committed suicide, most everyone was broke. Like Ireland today, few people had money to spend on cars, washing machines, new houses and so on, the stuff that gets the wheels of industry rolling, thereby creating the jobs necessary to generate federal income which, in turn, pays off debt. In other words, what is the true situation?

So, Mr. Cotter, what is your solution, Ireland’s "pay your bills now" austerity plan or Italy’s, or Greece’s, or what you call "Krugman’s Kool-Aid"?

And by the way, we have our own "What is the true situation?" at our airport. After spending more than $20 million on runway extensions we have an airport that has a greater risk factor than if we had done nothing at all. How so? The FAA Runway Safety Office has published a pamphlet, "Best Practices" when designing an airport. The pamphlet specifically cautions against back taxiing on an active runway. The pamphlet states, and I quote, "Anytime an active runway is used for anything but landings and takeoff, risks increase." This caution has been studiously ignored. Every departure on runway 26 requires back-taxiing for ever more. There were alternatives, but the true situation has been ignored.