by Jonathan Singer, Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 12:10:08 AM EDT
A small-bore measure -- but sometimes small-bore measures matter.
Senator Charles E. Schumer said Sunday that he had commitments from five airlines that they would not charge passengers a fee for carry-on baggage.
Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he had received the promises in personal calls from top airline executives.
The carriers are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and US Airways.
This is the type of retail politics that makes Chuck Schumer, the number three Democrat in the Senate, one of the most effective politicians in America. While voters no doubt care more about major issues like the economy and healthcare than others, one cannot overstate the importance of efforts like these.
Don't believe me that actions like these matter? Think back four years ago to when Schumer got out ahead of the country, and his fellow politicians, by pressing the Bush administration not to allow the government of the United Arab Emirates to purchase control of major United States ports through Dubai Ports World. While this skirmish -- which Schumer won -- wasn't the proximate cause of the Democrats victory in the midterm elections occurring nine months later in November 2006, it did help cement the case that the Republicans and the Bush administration were out of touch. Indeed, the polling on the issue not long after Schumer exposed the deal ran strongly in opposition to the Bush administration's move, with just 17 percent supporting the DPW sale and 69 percent opposing.
Will Schumer's move, getting the leading American airlines to pledge not to charge for carry-on bags, have the same effect of his move to stop the sale of American ports to DPW? It is yet unclear. But at a time when Americans are particularly distrustful of the efficacy of government action, it can't be a bad thing for one of the leading Democrats in Congress to deliver tangible results on an issue a great many Americans care about.