Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I don't envy the 1% for Flying High

Not far from where I live in Las Vegas is the Henderson Executive Airport, where this week, private jets were parked for the annual National Business Aviation Association convention.

The private luxury jet business (discreetly referred to as "the business aviation industry") is dominated by American manufacturers, and will sell about $230 billion in new "business" jets over the next 10 years, according to a forecast by Honeywell Aerospace that was released at the convention. This year manufacturers will deliver 600 to 650 new business jets (and that doesn't include all the new and pre-owned jets "the 1 percenters" already own.)

Don't get me wrong, despite what wealthy Republicans, Fox News, and their corporate sponsors say, I don't envy the rich, and I really don't envy them their private jets. I don't fly often and would have no use for a private jet. So long as they don't fly too low and blast me with a sonic BOOM while I'm watching TV, they can tour the friendly skies all they want. I really don't give a damn. So long as the people inside pay their fair share of taxes.

It's usually rich people who have what's called "yacht envy" - and they usually envy others who are richer than they are. Most of the time, poor people don't envy rich people at all. Rich people just assume they do because they themselves know envy, and it's the only reason they can think of for us wanting to tax them the same as us.

While many of us may aspire to be rich ourselves, or dream and fantasize about it, we don't hate others who are. No, it's only when the one percenters deprive us of the basic necessities to live, drive us into abject poverty, criticize us and call us names, and look down their noses at us or squash us like we were just insignificant bugs, do I resent them. But I certainly don't envy them. And maybe the wealthy Republicans, Fox News, and their corporate sponsors realize this, and only use the argument of "envy" and "class war" as just lame excuses to justify not having to pay their fair share of taxes...just to be richer still.

But, getting back to the private luxury jet business...

Like many other high-end items for sale during this recession (for what's been an economic disaster for the working-class and poor) the richest 1% never suffered, so the top luxury niche of private jets is also doing very well -- helped in part by sharply increased foreign sales, particularly in Asia, Brazil and the Middle East; and also for more long-range international travel by domestic companies. The market for the biggest, most expensive business jets has remained strong. The 1% never even got a scratch, during this, or any other recession for that matter. Their standard of living wasn't affected. They kept their lights on and didn't have to forgo luxuries such as cable TV or pizza deliveries.

In the last few years large cabin jets have been selling robustly, and will represent about 25 percent of projected sales through 2011. For some companies with far-flung business (such as in China were iPhones are made for wages paying $1 an hour) a large cabin long-range plane allows a group of corporate suits to travel in speed and luxury. The one-percenters, as Masters of the Universe, can ride their magic carpets in style and comfort.

Some of the most magnificent corporate jets were on display at the convention, held on 630,000 square feet of space at Henderson Executive Airport, where convention-goers are able to wander around the planes and even through them.

There were 90 planes, but the star of the show was the new Gulfstream G650, which can fly close to the speed of sound, has a range of 7,000 miles, and can fly as high as 51,000 feet. “Think of it as having the sky to yourself,” Gulfstream ads say. (Read the specs here and download the brochure.)

If you want to peek inside the Gulfstream at the convention, you'll have to first make a reservation.

Gulfstream has added 1,300 jobs this year because high-end luxury jets are in high demand, and it has orders for that plane that extend into 2017, and announced at the convention that it expected to deliver the first 10 or 12 next year. The price tag for each one is $64.5 million - but if you're on a tight budget, you can buy other pre-owned models ranging from $14 to $40 million.

ALSO: The Boeing V.I.P. line includes a private version of the new 787 Dreamliner ($178.2 million, plus cabin outfitting starting at $80 million). Or how about your own private 747? Boeing can put you in one for about $299.5 million. (Cabin outfitting starts at $140 million). This big boy (pictured below) might come in handy when a whole group of one percenters might want to party like it's 1929.

And with a tax break and corporate welfare, any of these babies are a real bargain! And the 1% won't even have to worry about having a yacht repossessed or having their mansion foreclosed on. The 1% are truly blessed and flying high!

But I don't envy them because, with God's blessing, I won't be the one who's going to Hell.

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