Instead of you nannying me…. (or: Go Spirit Airlines!)

April 25, 2010

Ben Cardin is one of my senators. He’s been one of my elected representatives for fifteen years, either as my U.S. representative or my senator, and been in federal office and state office much longer than that. He’s a smart guy, a nice guy, and has a career of dedication to public service. In other words, he’s pretty much everything that’s wrong with Maryland politics.

I’m not sure how that “red state–blue state” thing got started, unless is was Dr. Seuss’s contribution to the political discourse. But we have it now, so believe me when I tell you Maryland is one of the deepest blue states in the nation. We have a few Repubs in the public eye—Ellen Sauerbrey, Andy Harris, Michael Steele. But as long as I’ve lived in Maryland, we’ve had public officials who’ve made careers out of sincerely believing that government is here to help people. Some of them, like John Sarbanes, are personal acquaintances; others, like Martin O’Malley, Cardin, and Sarbanes’ father, I’ve only had the opportunity to meet and say hello. But they all approach government the same way: the bigger, the better.

In response to an announcement by Spirit Airlines, a mid-range regional carrier, that they would begin charging passengers $45 for each piece of carry-on luggage, Cardin is one of the cosponsors of a particularly meddlesome piece of legislation, S.3195, the Free of Fees for Carry-On Act, which he claims will preserve airline rights but also prevent travelers from being abused with fees. This bill is the essence of government micromanaging our lives.

In my current job, I bet I travel way more often by plane than Cardin does (though he probably travels longer distances). I also bet he doesn’t fly coach, where the overhead bins are a pandemonium dominated by preschool children with their very own wheeled luggage (why? why do four-year-olds need a bag as big as mine?), inconsiderate adults putting their bags in the wrong way and thereby taking up too much space, and still other adults thinking it’s okay for them to put their jackets in the overhead bin so other passengers have no room to put their bags up there. On Southwest, if you don’t have an “A” boarding pass, woe is you; I bet my paycheck there won’t be any room for your bags by the time you board.

Some larger airlines, such as United, are charging for checked luggage. I totally understand the desire to not check luggage, since it may get lost.  However, in this day and age, of overhead bins crammed to the gills, I think it should be the other way around. Make checked luggage free, and pay for carry-ons. I suggest that Spirit has the right idea. Don’t want to pay the $45? Check your bag, and leave room for the rest of us who don’t mind paying. Or, I have an even better idea: Don’t want to pay the $45? Don’t fly on Spirit. No one is forcing you to, after all. An added side benefit of this would be that fewer bags to process would mean fewer tie-ups in the TSA lines. (Now, granted, I do think the best solution for tie-ups at TSA lines is to abolish TSA. But I digress.)

S.3195 could come from no other legislator other than a nanny state type. For a bright guy, Mr. Cardin certainly has lost sight of how much easier and, ultimately, better a free-market solution could be.

A final thought: Would a terrorist pay $45 for the privilege of bringing bomb components onboard? I doubt it.

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