In an episode of the Family Guy earlier this year, Lois Griffin challenges Mayor Adam West for election. When she finds that actually answering questions is not the fastest way to elective office, she begins to answer every question in the debate with two words: nine-eleven.
September Eleventh is no joke – it is one of the most tragic days in our nation’s history. Yet to some Americans it feels like Republicans in particular have taken to answering every question from traffic to the environment is “9/11”.
To some degree this accusation is true which itself is no laughing matter. Because some Republicans have abused the legacy of 9/11, Americans have, by and large, pushed the tragic events of that day out of the public consciousness. The impacts of 9/11 were real, and they continue to exist yet because it has become trite to blame things on 9/11, we look for other culprits or simply blame George Bush.
The hangover of 9/11 is most evident when you walk into the airport. Airline security is important, and it always has been, but the loss of privacy and the inconvenience of the added security is wearing thin. How many times are we going to ask a five year old to remove his shoes or an eighty-year old grandmother to take off her overcoat before we realize that fighting terrorism should involve somehow looking for people who fit the profile of, you know, terrorists?
What’s more, the American airline industry is continuing to pay the price of 9/11, and will for decades to come. In the aftermath of the attacks, several U.S. airlines went into bankruptcy; others barely avoided it by doing things like cutting back on in-flight meals and charing customers for services that used to be included in the ticket price.
Meanwhile, foreign carriers improved their soft products – upgrading premium cabins and installing personal video on demand, for example – and investing in new aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and environmentally-friendly Boeing 787 Dreamliner. American airlines, struggling though difficult times, are now behind the eight ball when it comes to replacing planes; they’ll be waiting to replace what they’ve got for a while. In the meantime, most domestic airlines will be flying louder, less fuel-efficient planes for decades longer than their foreign counterparts. Their inability to provide much more than a Southwest-level of service has opened markets for new entrants like Jet Blue and Virgin America.
There’s a broader impact. In the days following the attacks, billions of dollars were lost in global equity markets, leading to reduced tax revenues for federal and state governments. Worker productivity suffered as people stayed home and stayed away from public venues. It’s no surprise, looking at these facts, that President Bush’s 2001 budget surplus became a deficit in 2002 and each year since.
The Post 9/11 economic slowdown led the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates to historically low levels. The 1% Fed Funds rate which we all took for granted, fueled hyper-inflation in the nation’s housing markets and a credit free-for-all which ended – you guessed it – with the current sub-prime mess.
While it is tempting to blame 9/11 for all of America’s problems and equally tempting to write off any Republican who want to use the attack as an excuse, not a reason for some of our nation’s current problems, we should remember 9/11 and its contributing effects to our collective story not just on the anniversary, but on 9/12, 9/13 and every other day of the year. The effect of this sad day are still with us. We need to realize – and accept – that fact.