The shrinking MSP hub (5X8 – 5/2/12)

A return to flyover country, the private parts of the U.S. economy, the decline and fall of the mainline Protestant, a polka dot protest, and surfing Superior.


The Star Tribune didn’t come right out and say it this morning in an article about Delta’s decision to take the nice toys away from Minneapolis St. Paul, but it might as well have raised the question — is Delta punishing us?

The airline is removing Airbus jets from many of the routes in the Twin Cities and sending them to the airline’s Atlanta hub instead. We’re getting stuck with MD-88 jets, which are noisy, not particularly comfortable, and are like being given the station wagon when your dad buys the new car.

“If we have the lower end of the planes … it feels like you’re a little bit more in the minor leagues,” said airport commissioner Rick King.

Everybody who knows a former Northwest Airlines employee in Minnesota, probably knows a former Northwest Airlines employee who has (a) retired or (b) moved to Atlanta because that’s where Delta moved his/her job to. Last week, the company said it might move its MLT vacations operation to Georgia.

Why would Delta do that to Minnesota? Maybe — and there’s no proof, of course — it’s because Minnesota is “doing it” to Delta.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission, under orders from political leaders and pressure from some air travelers, has actively worked to provide more competition to Delta. In February, it wooed Spirit Airlines to MSP to fly to Las Vegas and Chicago, a couple of busy routes for Delta.

Eventually, if history is repeated, Delta will run Spirit out of town. The airline knows how to play hardball and it’s made clear that it wants to shed itself of any obligations to politicians that could be used to make it do things it doesn’t want to go. That’s why it paid off a state-backed loan that had strings attached to it.

Delta is slowly reducing Northwest hubs; that much is clear. Memphis, for example, expects a further 25 percent cut. Cincinnati is history. And a recent roundtable on hub cities suggested Minneapolis is one of the old cities that may find itself abandoned. Conservatives Panelists on the panel blamed deregulation.

The Washington Post recently calculated the cost…

It can now cost Memphis residents $750 to fly to Cincinnati or $900 to Austin. Businesses are relocating or avoiding Memphis because they can’t afford the flights. The city’s annual Folk Alliance music festival is shifting to Kansas City in 2014 to avoid airport hassles.

“It’s ironic that in a city where FedEx invented the modern-day model for global commerce, our citizens are being priced out of the world economy,” Jones said.

Jones was speaking at a New America Foundation panel discussion titled “Is It Time to Re-Regulate America’s Broken Airline System?” The debate revolved around a recent article in the Washington Monthly by Philip Longman and Lina Khan, who argued that more and more regions are finding themselves isolated as airlines merge, consolidate, and prune their less-profitable hubs and routes. Older industrial cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Memphis, St. Louis and Minneapolis, they note, “are increasingly cut off from each other and from the global economy.” And it’s not clear what, if anything, can be done about it.

Local officials are in a tough spot, having to to simultaneously keep its biggest airline happy while working hard to reduce its business.

The evidence so far suggests it’s a plan that’s not working.

The sun is setting…


The 20 largest private companies in the United States. Click the image for a larger version. Note that #1 is the local squad.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Largest Private Companies in the U.S.


As I mentioned on The Current yesterday afternoon in my daily talk with Mary Lucia, it was quite a juxtaposition for me on Sunday when I noted that two public school parking lots in my neighborhood — Woodbury — were jam-packed with people attending church services there. One megachurch provides three services — one on Saturday and two on Sunday — by teleconference.

When I returned home and opened the mail, it was a notice from the local, dying Methodist Church that another nearby mainline church had finally been put out of its misery and two others would share one pastor. It’s only a matter of time before one or both also die.

What’s going on here?

Basically, mainline Protestants are on the way out, the newest decennial religion census reveals. Mormons and Muslims are the fastest growing religious participants. Evangelical Protestants are increasing slightly. Mainline Protestants are in decline.

On the survey’s website, you can search the religious affiliation by zip code. Here’s Washington County, for example:


Religious “adherents” have dropped 2 percent in recent years. Methodists, to use the above example, are down almost 4 percent from 10 years ago, 9 percent from 20 years ago.

More religion: A different kind of prom in Michigan:


Where does one person’s freedom end and another person’s hatred of polka dots begin? In Bismarck Grand Forks, and apartment building owner is painting polka dots all over his property. City officials are not happy, but Bismarck Grand Forks doesn’t have a building code banning polka dots. Yet.


Sure, you can surf Lake Superior. But how good is it — really — to the most expert surfers?

(h/t: Ben Chorn)

Related Big Lake: Two people begin a 5,000-mile bike ride around the Great Lakes.

Bonus I:Theory: TV reporters have more interesting days than the rest of us.

Bonus II: Is ESPN scamming the Internet by making up a columnist? (h/t: Patrick Martin)

Bonus III: Welcome home, kid.

Meanwhile, about 500 members of the Minnesota National Guard are waking up at home this morning.

Bonus IV: Video of last evening’s storms in Minnesota. May I suggest that the car looks mighty tiny to be out chasing tornadoes?


Citing the potential for misuse and abuse, New York City school officials say teachers can no longer contact students through personal social media accounts on services such as Twitter and Facebook. Today’s Question: Should teachers be allowed to communicate with students through their personal social media accounts?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The problems with managing multiple medications.

Second hour: Can you make yourself smarter?

Third hour: Trust in America.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former Minnesota Department of Health commissioner Jan Malcolm, speaking on Minnesota’s health care crisis.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Political Junkie.

Second hour: Doing special education right.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – For some three million homeowners, it’s almost impossible to build equity. That’s because they rent the land beneath their homes — in trailer parks. But a New Hampshire-based non-profit is helping change that. NPR will report on how trailer park residents band together for economic security.